15 April 2009

How We Are Hungry (Dave Eggers)

I don't often enjoy the concept of the short story in it's singular form. I recently read the short story written in 1973 by James Tiptree Jr.: The Women Men Don't See. Well-written, insightful and semi-plausible... until the aliens turn up. And I KNOW it's sci-fi and therefore I shouldn't be complaining, but in the form of a short story there is little scope already for development of plot and character; throwing aliens in at the end seems like a last ditch attempt to go out on a bang, with no regard for the fact that the rest of the story, whilst on a deserted island, is supernatural-free.

HOWEVER, the short story COLLECTION is another thing altogether. Reading an excellent collection of short stories (by the SAME AUTHOR, none of these awful compilations please) is much like listening to an album that has obviously been constructed with each song part of a larger story, everything flowing and melding perfectly.

This is what Dave Eggers offers us with his 2004 collection How We Are Hungry. Often the short story author will attempt to create synergy be setting all stories in the same town, or having the characters weave in and out of each story, or have an overly obvious theme like several people all dealing with the shock of an apocalypse-free reality after the year 2000. Eggers bypasses any such clumsy amalgamations and instead presents us with 15 stories which appear to share little at the outset. However, at least to me, reading the book it seemed obvious that Eggers had finished each story and moved with ease onto the next one... his thoughts flow with purpose throughout and I didn't feel in the least disjointed or unsatisfied, which is how I often feel when reading the short story.

Hope you all had a good Easter... I had a marvellous time away, made even more so by this exciting tidbit I picked up: WH Smith now apparently have a 'Misery Literature' section. I kid you not. I am SUPER excited to check it out and feel as though, considering our tastes run in that direction a lot of the time anyway, we should think about having a Mislit Feature. GLORIOUS!!
Rating: 8/10.
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