Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

"How we are hungry" by Dave Eggers (Penguin, 2005)

From 1 page stories to 60 page novellas. I liked the longish "The only meaning of the oil-wet water". The first paragraph ends with "There is almost no sadness in this story" and the second with "her profession does not figure into this story", and there are interjections - e.g.

LOW-FLYING, QUICK-MOVING CLOUDS: I haven't long to live.
TREETOPS, ROUNDED AND ROUGH: That's probably true.
LOW-FLYING, QUICK-MOVING CLOUDS: I won't even make it to the sea. I can already see where I'll end.
TREETOPS, ROUNDED AND ROUGH: I don't know what to tell you.
LOW-FLYING, QUICK-MOVING CLOUDS: But the thing is, I really love moving like this, though I know I won't even make it.
TREETOPS, ROUNDED AND ROUGH: There are advantages to flight.
LOW-FLYING, QUICK-MOVING CLOUDS: But thought is its unfitting companion

On page 3 of "Up the mountain coming down slowly", the main character, whose name we already know, wakes in an African hut - "Morning come like a scream through a pinhole" (p.142). She's there to climb Kilimanjaro because her sister urged her to. We suddenly find out more about the character.

Her name is Rita. Her hair is red like a Romanian's and her hands are large. Eyes large and mouth lipless and she hates, has always hated, her lipless mouth. As a girl she waited for her lips to appear, to fill out, but it never happened. Every year since her sixteenth birthday her lips have not grown but receded. The circles make up the roof but the circles never touch. Her father had been a pastor. (p.143)

She makes it to the summit, but has some bad nights. During one of them she's a little delirious (a state that's well rendered) and a guide dies.

"There are some things he should keep to himself" is 4 blank pages. No.

"After I was thrown in the river and before I drowned" has a dog PoV, with talking squirrels. It ends in heaven. I like it. I didn't like any of the shorter pieces though.

Other reviews

  • Joanna Briscoe (Guardian)
  • David Barringer (Wordriot)
  • A.O. Scott (New York Times)
  • Nicholas Taylor
  • Ed Caesar (Independent) "(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)"

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