How we are Hungry, by Dave Eggers

You mean, both water and oil are wet? Thanks, Dave
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The Independent Culture

Dave Eggers' How we are Hungry is so infuriating you want to throw his stories half-read across the room and come back when you have calmed down. Unreasonable? Take this offensive whimsy: "GOD: I own you like I own the caves. THE OCEAN: Not a chance. No comparison. GOD: I made you. I could tame you. THE OCEAN: At one time, maybe. But not now. GOD: I will come to you, freeze you, break you."

Dave Eggers' How we are Hungry is so infuriating you want to throw his stories half-read across the room and come back when you have calmed down. Unreasonable? Take this offensive whimsy: "GOD: I own you like I own the caves. THE OCEAN: Not a chance. No comparison. GOD: I made you. I could tame you. THE OCEAN: At one time, maybe. But not now. GOD: I will come to you, freeze you, break you."

It goes on. This is a second prize effort in the sixth-form creative writing contest - adolescent, unformed, pretentious. And it is only one of a zany gang of features that conspire to ruin most of the stories in this uninspired collection. To vent spleen over every little McSweeneyan trick would take forever, so let us confine ourselves to "The Only Meaning of the Oil-Wet Water". The God/Ocean moment is a low point but it has company: horses have conversations with their shadows in screenplay format; pop songs are written out in verse form; paragraphs finish mid-sentence with a dash. You get the -

And "oil-wet"? Wet like oil? You mean, both water and oil are wet? Thanks, Dave, we might have got there on our own. Or perhaps, by compounding oil and water, our attention is drawn to the irreconcilable juxtaposition of these entities. Ah, rather like the relationship at the heart of the story. The author, one senses in moments like this, wants you to feel gratitude that you have been let in on his peculiar greatness. But, like much in this story and collection, it is a trick pretending to signify everything and signifying nothing. One is left wishing that Eggers would just leave you alone to work it out without prompt cards.

The rest of the collection provides similar nonsense, although there are moments, in the simpler, shorter stories, where concision yields a cutely rendered snapshot of a life. It is enough to remind you that A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius was not, although seriously over-hyped, without its charms. If only the man could learn not to shout. There is one story, "There are Some Things He Should Keep to Himself", which is five pages of blank space. One quickly realises it might be the best of the lot.

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