Dec 12, 2011

You Shall Know Our Velocity!, by Dave Eggers

This is the first Dave Eggers book I've read, and my main reaction: Wow. I can't believe I haven't read his work until now. Real literature wraps indelible truths in a story that pulls you in so strongly the truths hit you shockingly hard. This is exactly what this book does. The book is written in first person by Will, a 27 year old man who's life has been turned upside down by a sudden financial windfall, the death of one of his closest friends and his subsequent beating by three men in rural Wisconsin. He enlists his remaining closest friend, Hand, to join him on a cross-planetary trip on which he plans to give away $36,000 to those who seem to be in need. They start out in Senegal and end in Latvia, and we get every detail of their seven day trek.

Throughout, Will is caught up inside his own head. He holds imaginary conversations with those around him, remembers the painful events that precipitated the trip, explores his feelings about life, and death. The truths Eggers describes involve what it means to be ready to die, the solitariness one can feel even when being incredibly intimate with another human being, the desire to do anything and be everything all at once. I was struck most of all by Will's "paralysis of possibility," a phrase I myself conjured a few years ago when faced with certain life decisions. The money opened up infinite opportunities for Will, and suddenly he was paralyzed by the inability to choose. He yearned for limitations, clear-cut borders that pushed him into a definite direction. It's a feeling I can relate to.

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