It's pretty safe to say that there are two camps of readers when it comes to Dave Eggers: those who love his work and those who hate it. I'm firmly in the former group and with his latest work, A Hologram for the King, I think I've finally figured out why.
To be honest, my hopes weren't that high going into this novel. The story focuses on a middle-aged business man who, after effectively outsourcing himself from the bicycle company where he began his career, finds himself hugely in debt and taking whatever independent consulting work comes his way. He leaves his dreary life behind to go to Saudi Arabia on a seemingly endless, very possibly pointless, business trip. His job is to secure an IT contract for a developing Saudi city and his success hinges on presenting innovative holographic teleconferencing technology to the Saudi King. In other words, the plot didn't sound like my typical cup of tea and probably isn't something I would have even picked up if it was by any other author. To a certain extent, by suspicions were true in that the writing style Eggers uses here is quite different from his other novels. It's sparser, and he reigns in some of the tangential, rambling tricks of his that I usually like so much. Despite this change of pace, I still found myself thoroughly enjoying the story, laughing during some parts and eager to read on to see what happened during others. Eggers has a keen eye for the absurd and in reading A Hologram for the King it struck me that his brand of absurdism veers more toward the whimsical and optimistic rather than the weird and strange. It's this touch of whimsy that manages to enliven a novel that otherwise deals with an experience of inertia in a bleak, foreign landscape. Looking back a bit, I think it's this same whimsy that lightens the emotional load of the heavy subjects that are dealt with in Zeitoun, What is the What, and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I'm sure that his detractors would argue that the very fact Eggers always uses varying degrees of this style is one of his flaws, but to my mind it's one of the best things about his work.
So, do you love or loath Dave Eggers? Or are you a member of that rare group that hasn't read anything by him yet?