03 June 2007

What is the What

About a month and a half ago, I mentioned on Pretty Fakes that I wanted to try out reading Dave Eggers' latest book. I finally read it.

I found it a little difficult to get into initially, but finished it yesterday. It's a novel, yet it's also a biography, and it's very moving with no pretentiousness.

Amazon has a compilation of editorial reviews of the book. Here's what Gary Krist of the Washington Post thinks of the book:

"God has a problem with me," complains Valentino Achak Deng, the subject of Dave Eggers's extraordinary new novel, What Is the What. Coming from almost any other person on the planet, this lament would appear hopelessly self-pitying. But coming from Valentino, a Sudanese refugee, it sounds almost like an understatement. At a time when the field of autobiography seems dominated by hyperbolic accounts of what might be called dramas of privilege (substance abuse, eating disorders, unloving parents, etc.), What Is the What is a story of real global catastrophe -- a work of such simple power, straightforward emotion and genuine gravitas that it reminds us how memoirs can transcend the personal to illuminate large, public tragedies as well.

In this world of selfishness and excess, Deng and Eggers provide a reality check. There is tragedy; there is hope.

If you're interested in learning more about Valentino Achak Deng and his foundation, check out the web site.


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