Top positive review
4 people found this helpful
Eggers' Genius is never more prevalent than in "A Hologram for the King"
on June 6, 2014
I love Dave Eggers. I certainly love his work in "The Best American Nonrequired Reading" series. I loved "What is the What", and I enjoyed "The Circle" for its attempt to expose, if not discredit our business ethos in America (and abroad). I enjoy Dave Eggers' infusion of significant historical and social content. I love Dave Eggers as an activist and a leader of social reform. Most of all I love Dave Eggers because of his ability to write. Dare I say that twenty years from now, he may be heralded as one of (if not The) voice and conscience of his generation.
That being stated, I think that "A Hologram for the King" from a purely artistic standpoint is his greatest accomplishment to date. "A Hologram" should be compared (favorably I might add) to Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" and to Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman". "A Hologram" is better written than either of them. There is virtually no plot, and yet like most of Eggers' other writing, I was unable to put "A Hologram" down.
Alan Clay is the protagonist in "A Hologram", a character whom I found to be more interesting, and better developed than Willy Loman. Alan Clay is a middle-aged American businessman who shows up in Saudi Arabia to pitch a large IT deal to the king of the country. From the outset, Clay is hoping to change the terrible luck that has surrounded him for years . A divorcee in his mid 50s, Clay has many unresolved family issues, particularly involving his ex-wife, Clay is also a former Schwinn bicycle executive, where he was responsible for helping the company to outsource the manufacturing of its bikes to the Chinese, effectively putting Schwinn out of business. At present, Clay has been without work for a number of years and is teetering on the edge of personal bankruptcy. Alan has managed to convert a minor connection to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah into a presentation to build a hologram for the king in hopes of landing an enormous contract to wire the new King Abdullah Economic City that is being built near the Saudi port city of Jeddah. Clay has somehow convinced the "guys from corporate" (think AT&T, Verizon, etc.) to partner with him for this mammoth Saudi contract. Upon their arrival in King Abdullah Economic City, Alan and his team are shown to a tent where they are to pass the hours and days waiting for the King to arrive.
Alan Clay is the quintessential "snake-bit" salesman who is always one deal away from making it big. Despite Clay's desperate need to make this opportunity work, he is uncomfortable sitting with the gang from corporate under the tent in the sweltering Saudi heat, as they quietly bang away at their computers and check their other IT tools like their I-phone and I-pads. Clay looks and feels out of place- he is an outsider even for his own deal. Consequently, he retreats to his hotel room, where he spends the majority of his time alone, drinking away his sorrows and anxieties. Eggers is at his best while Clay worries incessantly about a lump that he finds on the back of his neck, conjuring up various ways that he might ultimately suffer horribly and then die from his lump. Clay meets a variety of people while endlessly waiting for the king to arrive. Clay meets a cab driver by the name of Yousef who spent a year in college in Alabama, and passes his time by checking the car's wiring for explosives each day, in fear that someone is trying to kill him.
Spoiler alert: Toward the end of the novel, Clay abandons his "big" corporate opportunity with the King in order to go on a hiking expedition into the Arabian Mountains with Yousef with they are drawn into a wolf hunt.
"A Hologram for the King" is one of the best novels that I have read in the last several years, and I anxiously await everything and anything that Dave Eggers produces.