Avid Readers, Occasional Bloggers

Tag: Dave Eggers

The Captain and the Glory by Dave Eggers

I get that it is hard to make satire of our current situation but isn’t that what talented writers are supposed to offer?

This is the question I have been asking myself this summer. OK, perhaps that is an exaggeration. But it is a useful literary device for a blog post…

If you are scoring at home, I am on a quest to read 100 books in a year.  As a result, I am always tempted by short books.  I stumbled on two politically orientated satires this summer which I thought would be both entertaining and present a theme for this on-again off-again blog.

No so much…

First was The Cockroach by Ian McEwan which I found rather sad all things considered.

Next up, The Captain and the Glory by Dave Eggers

The Captain and the Glory Book Cover
The Captain and the Glory Satire Knopf Hardback 114 pages Library

When the decorated Captain of a great ship descends the gangplank for the final time, a new leader, a man with a yellow feather in his hair, vows to step forward. Though he has no experience, no knowledge of nautical navigation or maritime law, and though he has often remarked he doesn’t much like boats, he solemnly swears to shake things up. Together with his band of petty thieves and confidence men known as the Upskirt Boys, the Captain thrills his passengers, writing his dreams and notions on the cafeteria wipe-away board, boasting of his exemplary anatomy, devouring cheeseburgers, and tossing overboard anyone who displeases him. Until one day a famous pirate, long feared by passengers of the Glory but revered by the Captain for how phenomenally masculine he looked without a shirt while riding a horse, appears on the horizon . . . Absurd, hilarious, and all too recognizable, The Captain and the Glory is a wicked farce of contemporary America only Dave Eggers could dream up.

My quick take: it was funny (and depressing) in spots, but just too heavy handed and preachy by the end. Better than its British equivalent, The Cockroach, but that is a low bar.

Perhaps reassuringly, many critics agree with me.

The Lifters by Dave Eggers

I will confess that my family and I are regular browsers at Barnes and Noble. My kids love to hang out in the kids area (although to be fair my son mostly looks at Lego’s) and of course I enjoy browsing the latest releases and even checking out the bargain shelves while drinking some Starbucks (shocking for a book addict, I know). Despite having a membership and frequently buying books and toys, sometimes we do browse and then look to find it at the local library. Such was the case with The Lifters by Dave Eggers. I first noticed it at the bookstore but then found a cheap used copy at Half Price Books or the local library sale.

I still regularly check out young adult fiction (middle grade in this case) and this seemed an intriguing story with nice illustrations. When my brain was overstuffed with work and other heavy things this turned out to be a good palette cleanser.

When Gran and his family move to Carousel, he has no idea that the town is built atop a secret. Little does he suspect, as he walks his sister to school or casually eats a banana, that mysterious forces lurk mere inches beneath his feet, tearing up the earth like mini-hurricanes and causing the town to slowly but surely sink.

When Gran’s friend, the difficult-to-impress Catalina Catalan, presses a silver handle into a hillside and opens a doorway to underground, he knows that she is extraordinary and brave, and that he will have no choice but to follow wherever she leads. With luck on their side, and some discarded hockey sticks for good measure, Gran and Catalina might just find a way to lift their town–and the known world–out of danger.

What I liked:

– I enjoyed the relationship between Gran and Catalina and the way it was awkward and full of conflict. This seemed realistically ambiguous and fraught with emotions.

– I liked the way Gran’s mother was a character that just happened to need a wheelchair rather than an obvious character with a disability added simply for the sake of diversity. It felt natural within the story.

– I liked the overall sense of mystery and the fantastical without all of the why’s and how’s neatly explained. It added tension and drove the story forward.

Not so much:

It did seem a little preachy or didactic in parts with an obvious moral or message. But given the audience and the dire need for society to understand the importance of family, friends and community, it didn’t bother me too much

bottom line:

I enjoyed it even if it was a little heavy-handed in spots. Still a fun story with a good message about community, friendship, etc.

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