Monday, January 21, 2008

What is the What by Dave Eggers

The oughts, the 2000s, the O-Os. Call this decade what you will, but Dave Eggers has to be one of the best writers from it. This is somewhere between his 5th and 10th book depending on how you count them. It's the "autobiography" of a Sudanese lost boy. It's a truish story. A novelized memoir, written by a third party. It's hard to put Eggers' works into categories.

The story follows Valentino Achak Deng from his childhood in southern Sudan, along his march to refugee camps during the Sudanese Civil War, and through his adjustments to life in the US. The book opens with a robbery in his apartment in Atlanta. Bound and gagged, he tells his story silently to his assailants. Jumping back and forth from the present, he explains the conflict and how a whole population of Sudanese boys wound up in the States.

It's a personal story. People all around him die. He's separated from his family, forced to join a rebel army. He finds love. He struggles to adapt to a new culture, contemplates murder and suicide. And nowadays he travels the country recounting all of this, in short and long versions, to churches, schools, crowded bookstores, and youtube-ees. All Eggers did was come up with a way to get all that down in book form.

If you like audio books, definitely go that route with this one. It's narrated by Dion Graham (of The Wire) who does an excellent job with the voices. I listened to it on two consecutive 8 hour drives and never got road weary. A+ to everyone involved.

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