5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2010
This is a great little book. I lucked out and got it for ten bucks on here not long ago, and that's about what it's worth. It's a great read, but probably nothing you can't live without if you're not as obsessed with Eggers as I am. If you are, then wait and get this when you can find it cheaper. It's not the same book as "How the Water Feels to the Fishes" like a previous review stated. It shares only two stories with that collection (though they have slightly different titles), one of which has a slightly different ending.
This collection is mostly humorous, and quite a bit of it is meta-fiction. If you like that sort of thing, or are a fan of Eggers at all, get this book when you can find it for a reasonable price.
on March 21, 2013
I've been away from Eggers for a while now--two thirds of a year, I'm sure, it was ago, when I had read How We Are Hungry and came away with mixed feelings, most disappointment centered around the 2-page stories I felt were a waste of space entirely. Now here's a 55-page book made up of only 2- or 3-page (and in one case it extends to 4-!) stories.
It works out well here. Eggers' writing is refreshing. I always go out of my way to describe him as "honest" to friends. That's the word that keeps getting repeated in my head over and over after I read each page and mutter "Wow, what honesty" et cetera et cetera. His characters and their incidental and really bizarre thoughts that are shared that we all have and don't mention to one another in order to dodge being wrongly labeled a stalker or a homosexual or whatever; the example that most often comes to my mind is from You Shall Know Our Velocity!, where the narrator (what was his name?) shares his childhood thoughts on the daily chore of pooping. You guys all remember, when you were kids, right? how you'd imagine bugs flying up your cold and quivering sphincter between those mountainous cheeks casting ominous shadows over bowled, stinking waves? It crossed all our minds at one time or another.
Another example, actually from this collection, is the first two-pager, located on pages 1 and 2, "You Know How to Spell Elijah," which has a young man, Eggers, the author, you and me and every reader too, chilling at an airport, eavesdropping on a family conversation: a girl asks her parents how to spell the first name of Elijah Woods for a crossword puzzle. Neither one has a clue--or, they do, but they both assuredly give the incorrect spelling (E-L-I-S-H-A and A-L-I-G-A), and the author and/or reader want desperately to confront the family, telling them gosh dang it, it is E-L-I-J-A-H, come on, please. Seriously. But then it crosses your mind that if you did help, it'd appear that you were paying too much attention to their private conversation, to this little girl's crossword puzzle, or too much interest in Teen magazine or something equally horrifying.
Despite the awesomeness of many stories, and Eggers' captivating voice and personality, there is still a bit of mediocrity to be found. Many, many stories--and I'm not necessarily saying this ruins the collection, or that the stories that feel this way (coming up!) are actually bad--feel more like exercises in writing. As if Eggers sat down, wrote out a random sentence, and let it flow from him for a page just for practice, with no intention to ever actually publish it or edit it. I wonder how much editing Eggers does. I'd guess he hardly needs any. Oh, Eggers....
If you can find this for two dollars, I recommend grabbing it. I don't know how far I'd recommend to going for this if you're an obsessive Eggers fangirl; I hear Eggers' 2007 contribution to One Hundred and Forty-Five Stories in a Small Box, titled How the Water Feels to the Fishes, still available to purchase on Internets everywhere, is the exact same book, but while I briefly owned that before giving it away as a birthday present to a family member, I glanced through their respective tables of contents and they didn't seem to be much alike at all, except the title story of Fishes is featured in here with a slightly different title.
This isn't much of a review.
[Written May 2008 for LibraryThing.]