How We Are Hungry – Dave Eggers

100_0251(Vintage 2004)

One of the most beautiful things in the world is an original concept expressed in creative language, and this means that “How We Are Hungry,” the collection of short stories by Dave Eggers, is one of the newest and most beautiful parts of this world, a book I gladly welcome in.

The language in Eggers’ short stories is new and provocative and he has the enthralling ability to tilt perspectives and create stories with momentum. Far from burnt out clichés, the writing is unexpected and original, with an energy that is tangible and races like a heartbeat. The prose is beautifully personal and deep, and though the thrashing violence in the language makes up most of the stories, these are violent delights. Eggers creates characters that range from beautifully wicked to vulnerably endearing, and they all have impulses, urges and dreams, all have living, breathing thoughts that are intimate and personal, thoughts that every person has and no person shares or says out loud. 

The experimental styles in some of the stories, most notably “The Only Meaning of the Oil-Wet Water” and “After I Was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned,” are truly inventive and have an aesthetic that flourishes within the structures of the stories. The former title animates conversations between the sun, the earth and the water, as well as other natural elements, playing with their balances and strengths, as if the world really were whispering. The latter title is the playful and energetic point-of-view of a young dog that is unexpectedly insightful and charismatic. Avoiding convention, Eggers creates new concepts for stories and writes the ideas out brilliantly.

“Notes for a Story of a Man Who Will Not Die Alone” is another original experiment in which Eggers provides a framework of a beautiful idea and leaves the reader to furnish the creation. Eggers cues up the events and the characters, structuring events so that we can see the choices he is making and why they are being made. And yet, it is somehow more lifelike, because of the human interaction, and when the readers have the beautiful ability to create and co-produce with Eggers, the collaboration creates new stories that were unimaginable.

“Quiet” may be the most interesting of the stories, though it doesn’t quite belong in comparison to the others. While the prose is just as propelling and curious, “Quiet” is oddly affectionate and almost clashes with the other more violent and frenzied stories. However, this story soon establishes itself, noticing the daydreams and obsessions we all have and how soon they consume us. The end of the story is a grand finale, and fireworks burst as the reader realizes how innovative Eggers truly is.