It’s not every day that we are needed.
This is the quote by Samuel Beckett that precedes the novel “Hologram for a King” written by Dave Eggers. If he had chosen to omit it and let the reader wander unfocused through the story I don’t think the desired effect would have been achieved. Hologram for a King is about Alan Clay, a man that used to run a bike manufacturing company in the Midwest that closed its doors after outsourcing. He lives in an empty house and watches old Red Sox DVDs. His neighbor after discovering transcendentalism walks into a lake and kills himself. His wife left him and he can’t help his daughter pay for college. At the beginning of the story Alan is headed to Saudi Arabia to sell King Abdullah a hologram for his King Abdullah Economic City. In 352 pages Alan waits for this king to show up- giving a second nod to Beckett’s classic, “Waiting for Godot.” And then it ends very open-ended but in line with the epithet.
Eggers litters his writing with echoes of Beckett’s bywords either with parallels to an eroding American economy or straightforward statements such as when Alan is writing his daughter and says “People think you’re able to help them and usually you can’t and so it becomes a process of choosing the one or two people you try hardest not to disappoint.”
Despite Dave’s intentions, this fundamental theme is lost by a large amount of readers as portrayed by the Amazon comments. It’s as if everyone vaulted past the epithet and began tearing through a book with the expectation of a unique character in a unique situation attempting to solve unique problems. But that’s not what this book is about.
Amazon quotes I found:
“I found the book depressing and often boring.”
“The main character wasn’t very likable to me, and I found myself irritated with his choices.”
“The story is rambling and nonsensical, with no real direction or purpose.”
This is a book about objects of importance losing their significances. It’s about becoming a thing of the past. After I finished reading it, yes, I felt it fell short of his previous works or what a story typically provides a reader, but the more I went back to the epithet the more it made sense.
My epithet for Sacco:
“If you told me nothing has a meaning you would be right, but something still has a meaning.” –Albert Camus
I chose it meticulously and with much thought because I wanted it to reflect the larger themes I was exploring. It took me six years to find a sufficient ending and a suitably longer time to find the beginning. But the beginning and ending, as it should be, are the hardest to write- they’re the bookends so to speak. And unlike Hologram for a King I hope people don’t tear through it and not see the direction and purpose.