The Parade by Dave Eggers – A Book Review

A friend recommended The Parade to me. I initially hesitated because Dave Eggers is always a little hit or miss, but when I saw the length of the book, which is very short, I decided it was worth a shot.

I flew through this book. Not only is it very short, it’s also written in a direct, straight-forward fashion. I believe Eggers wrote The Parade in such a way because it mirrors both the primary plot of the novella as well as the main character’s personality.

The Parade is about a nameless man hired by a nameless company in a nameless land razed by civil war to asphalt a road. The corporation has already dropped off the machine that will lay the asphalt. The nameless man, nicknamed the Clock, must simply pilot it and connect the two halves of the small country. The man wastes no time, does not interact with locals, and is concerned only about meeting his deadline. He’s completed over sixty such tasks without fail.

The same cannot be said for his partner. The Clock’s partner, who he simply calls Nine, is to drive an ATV ahead and make sure the road is clear of obstructions, people, or anything else that could cause the machine to stop. Nine’s job is to mitigate any potential issues.

Unfortunately, this is Nine’s first job with the company, and he is not at all interested in following policies or procedures. He is the opposite of the Clock–also known as Four–in every way.

Four is informed that the leader of the tiny country wants to execute a parade the moment the road is finished. It will begin in the capital city and head into the part of the nation that previously did not accept his authority. Four is told it will be a celebratory display of unity and peace.

As you can imagine, complications arise. Nine gets himself into all kinds of trouble, the kind of trouble Four cannot ignore. Does Four complete the road on time? Will the parade run as expected? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

The Parade seems interested in exploring three different ideas.

The first idea is about what happens when one is so focused on completing a task that no attention is paid to one’s surroundings? It is ethical to show up, do a job, and then leave without giving any consideration to the effect of one’s labor on people, government, or the land?

On the other hand, The Parade also delves into the repercussions of perhaps becoming too involved. Is it responsible to show up and immerse oneself into a situation without fully understanding the nuances? Even if trying to help, should one investigate the consequences of even the smallest kindness?

Finally, The Parade is gravely intent on analyzing bias. Four trusts no one in this novella. Nine trusts everyone. Four believes only in his work goals. Nine lives life without thinking of the future at all. Both come to regret their ideologies. However, by the end of the novel, we realize that we, the readers, are just as guilty as both Four and Nine. We understand that we too have made several errors in what we did and did not choose to trust throughout the book.

The Parade is a brief, potent read. I’ll admit that the ending is something of a shock to the system, but it’s also what forces our minds to detour and scout new territory. I’m certain the ending is not for everyone, but, because the book is so quick, so well written, and so thought-provoking, I definitely recommend you give it a try.


Are you in need of a new epic series? Try Dr. Nekros, a trilogy that I like to describe as Moonlighting meets The X-FilesKindle: or NOOK:

How We Are Hungry by Dave Eggers – A Book Review

This short story collection by Dave Eggers was hit or miss for me.  Never a traditionalist, Eggers makes sure that each and every one of his stories is original and unusual in some facet or another.  At times, this method works brilliantly; however, sometimes it also gets irksome.

Don’t mistake me, I’m all for experimental writing.  It’s just that story after story of it got old.  I don’t blame the author for this.  I was largely unfamiliar with Eggers’ work and wanted to give him a try.  In my mind, he simply isn’t a writer to curl up with in order to relax, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

There were a few stories in this collection that I truly enjoyed and found masterful.  “Up the Mountain Coming Down Slowly” was one such story.  Practically a novella, this story makes up the bulk of the collection and the price of the entire book is worth this one story alone.

All in all, if you’re looking for a page-turner to get lost in, this isn’t for you.  But, if you’re looking to study the form and substance of a work of original literature, Eggers will please.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers – A Book Review

As the title would suggest, this is a work of postmodernism at its purest.  However, that’s not necessarily always a good thing.  Dave Eggers presents a book that is a series of contradictions.  As the title sarcastically notifies, it is sometimes heartbreaking, and it is also sometimes the work of genius.  Consequently, the title also reeks of narcissism and “gimmick,” to which it is equally guilty.

To summarize, Eggers details the death of his parents and then his struggle to raise his much younger brother while attempting to start and maintain a magazine and land a role on The Real World.  But the book is so much more than that.  While labeled fiction, he makes no bones about the fact it is almost entirely autobiographical.

When Eggers is being authentic, the book is beautiful.  When he’s writing from the heart, blending his neurosis and experimental metacognition with events in an ingenuous manner, the book really is a joy to read.  There are sincere moments of hilarity, love, sadness, tension, and drama.  Eggers also readily exposes flaws in his character and without pause-flaws we all have but may not reveal so candidly to the world.  Unfortunately, my copy has 437 pages, and I’d say only about 230 of those are written in such sincere fashion.

The rest of the book is pure gimmick, and Eggers makes a point to admit this in a long-winded and agitating series of prefaces.  These sections of the book really irritated me due to their completely self-absorbed shtick and superfluous nature.  Eggers is pushing the envelope, and I can appreciate that, but in the instances it doesn’t work, it DOESN’T work.  We’re all familiar with the saying, “You’re trying too hard.”  Eggers falls victim to this temptation for much of the book.

There’s nothing wrong with presenting yourself egocentrically, for the majority of us are self-centered.  I admire Eggers for frankly and humorously divulging his many personality quirks.  I respect the blunt style chronicling his family’s struggles.  And when it worked, I learned a great deal about metacognition and how to execute it well.  Unfortunately, I also discovered the failings of “trying too hard” and giving into the lures of gimmick.