Tag: Dave Eggers

Voice of a Generation

by on Feb.20, 2010, under Books

The Millions proposes that Dave Eggers take over the editorship of the Paris Review from Phillip Gourevitch. My first thought was “what’s in it for Dave?” My guess, uninformed (McSweeney’s “doesn’t do numbers”) is that Eggers’s current gig has to have a wider circulation than the Review. The Millions has an answer, although it’s a kind a spinach prescription: they think that the editorship would force Eggers to finally get past his experiments in cute and forever side with the kinds of empathetic ventriloquism that runs through books like What is the What and Zeitoun.

This reportorial interest in the wider world is one that The Paris Review could nourish, even as it exposed Eggers to an even wider audience – one that might be less satisfied with his tics, and more demanding of writing in proportion with his enormous gifts.

I agree that this would be good spinach. A longer version of my abbreviated post Great Daves of the 90s would have had a similar hope for him.

Eggers’s innovation was a seemingly paradoxical blend of self-consciousness with generosity. At its best it uses a kind of non-corrosive irony to create a space for empathy. At its worst it becomes twee narcissism. N+1’s first Intellectual Situation called out the “Eggersards” for forming a “regressive avant-garde,” one which valued childhood above all other values. When Eggers’s valorization of children informs his literary good-citizen side, you get magic like 826 Valencia, a tutoring program that has spread from San Francisco across the country and trades on the cultish adoration for Eggers among the urban literate to produce an army of volunteers helping underprivileged youth with their writing homework and encouraging their creativity.

Helping actual children is a less exhaustible project than adopting childhood as an intellectual stance. An Eggers editorship of The Paris Review might reconcile the imagination and experimentation of the McSweeney’s empire with adulthood.

Leave a Comment :, , , more...

Out With The Old

by on Jan.01, 2010, under Books, Los Angeles, Movies, Politics

In a gesture towards a clean slate, a fresh start, and a healthy digestive reaction to the upcoming bowl of black-eyed peas, here are four quick sketches for blog posts that I started to draft but never completed. Fly free, little half-born angels.

  • Great Daves of the 90’s. I read Infinite Jest as part of the Infinite Summer challenge, and David Foster Wallace’s twisting, reflexive, ouroborean self-consciousness took me back to the early 90’s. The middle year of my college career was marked by emerging consciousness of the fictions involved in pronouncements about Generation X, and the same kinds of impossibility around newness and protest that Kurt Cobain seemed to reel from in his final famous years. When Dave Eggers (whose Might magazine I had enjoyed) published A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, its hysterically self-aware style felt immediately familiar, and I put off reading it until a few years ago, when I devoured it quickly, enjoyably, and without surprise. Wallace, however, resonates with the maddening headaches of that young consciousness that everything you think is already always being said, programmed by a machine you may operate but never master. But by approaching these struggles through the character of Don Gately, a recovering alcoholic, and showing us his experience grappling with the seemingly empty but vitally true dogma of Alcoholics Anonymous, Wallace validated this familiar and vertiginous self-reflexivity while challenging and expanding it, using a feature of my upper-middle-class overeducated habits of mind to create sympathy for a broken, giant ex-con. Also noted: while I was obsessing over the meanings and traps of “Generation X” I bought a Malcolm X hat (purple X on white baseball cap) and Sharpied “Gen-” in front of the X, and added “Generation Next” to the back, a gesture which in retrospect was a bizarre fashion error.
  • Where The Wild Things Are. Where The Fantastic Mr. Fox presented a fetishization of material goods behind its trumpeted wildness, the Jonzes’ Eggers’s Sendak’s wild things are figurines in staging a Oedipal passage to adulthood. Lauren Ambrose’s monster KJ is a cool babysitter, providing a mother-figure who is also a safe object for the early stirrings of sexual desire (she swallows Max whole to protect him at one point, keeping him safe in a sticky cavernous interior). The movie’s exploration of childhood sets sail from the therapist’s couch, turning Max’s inchoate childhood rages (very well represented) into figures with names before the journey home — and into healthy adulthood — can start. A delightful adaptation of a childhood story to a therapy generation, Where The Wild Things Are was good but both HJ and I wished it wasn’t the definitive take. We wanted the magnificent sets and costumes put in the hands of two or three more writers, so they could play out their own versions of WTWTA against their own idiosyncracies.
  • Interzone. At the time, the Los Angeles City Council was considering the prohibition of medical marijuana dispensaries within 1,000 feet of any residence. More typically, restricted uses will be prohibited close to schools, churches, parks and playgrounds–y’know, because the children are the future– but someone went and threw residences in there as well, leaving about two or three industrial districts where dispensaries could fill prescriptions. My proposal was for the creation of an L.A. Interzone, a la the portrayal of Tunis (?) in Naked Lunch, where head shops, dispensaries, sex offenders and strip clubs could all profitably locate.
  • Road Not Taken. I noticed that the people running to replace Paul Krekorian in the special election for California’s 43rd assembly district were all people that I knew and had come up with in L.A. politics. When I started working in City Hall I toyed with the idea of one day running for office, and if I had, it would be that election today. I made the choice not to seek elective office a long time before I got out of local politics entirely, but if I hadn’t, I could be out there today. Mutatis mutandis, I would have stacked up well. They’re a talented and friendly lot, and it should be an interesting race, but the Assembly today is no place for someone who wants to make a difference in California politics, sadly.

There. No more ideas! I’ll have to go see a movie or something. Big Josh, you back yet?

2 Comments :, , , , , , , , more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site: