Whatever Dave Eggers writes, I read. I read what he writes, because he is superb at the craft and knows what he is doing to a very large extent. I was first acquainted to his works when I picked up “’A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” on a lark and loved what I read. So much so that I would eagerly wait for his next release and lunge to the bookstore for it. This was way before Flipkart and it was a lot of fun. From that time on, Dave Eggers has been one of my favourite writers and he doesn’t disappoint at all.
“A Hologram for the King” is his latest offering and according to me it is one of his best works (barring A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius). It is set in a rising Saudi Arabian city. Alan Clay, a consultant is trying to get his life back in order (after being a failed businessman), through a project in Jeddah. This is his last chance to turn his life around, pay for his daughter’s tuition fees, worry about his ex-wife and his health all rolled in one. He is waiting. For King Abdullah, in the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) so he can pitch the project to him and cut a deal and become what he wants to – successful. He is looking back at his life (past and present) throughout the book, waiting for things to change and life to turn around for him. That is the plot of the story. There are various characters that keep going in and out of the plot and in most ways are essential to the book, however I will not reveal that to you, for that I recommend you read the book.
“A Hologram for the King” is a sparse book. It is not detailed the way his other books have been, however I had no complaints while reading it. The sentences are simply put and yet the emotions behind them are layered and complex. No scene seems out of place and Eggers ensures that the reader is involved in the story for at least most of the book. Dave explains the steep economy of America and in explaining a part of Saudi Arabia, he tries to compare the situation with the rest of the world and the impacts a common man like Clay faces. There is a lot going on in the book. At most times, the book reminded of “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller, given the situation – a common man waiting for things to change and life to take a turn back to how things were, and yet how difficult it is to do so.
The book is not depressing in the least. The writing if anything is only sarcastic and biting and yet manages to be emotional at most times. He takes the character of Alan Clay to another level – in making the readers see the desperate measures and the restraint, the allegorical levels in the book and the way the mind and the country can go to ruin (or so it seems from the writing) is beautifully expressed. At any point, I did not try to find happy moments in the book because I knew maybe that there wouldn’t be any. There are glimpses of hope nonetheless and before you know it, you are hooting for Alan and hoping that things work out for him.