Dave Eggers is angry. A writer noted for his distinctly sentimental bursts appears to be seething, worried about crumbling institutions, lost privacy, diminished intimacy and humanity in general.
“Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?” is told through a series of dialogues on an abandoned military base somewhere in California. It is a frothing, angry, mournful meditation on what is slipping away as America plows on into the 21st century.
Thomas is struggling to understand why institutions big and small – NASA, the police, his mother – have failed him and crumbled all around him. As the novel begins, he has kidnapped an astronaut, Kev, and chained him to a post on an abandoned military base. Thomas’ goal, if he is to be believed, is not to hurt anyone but to ask some important questions; to figure out this mess.
Eggers’ decision to make “Fathers” a continuous dialogue intensifies the already manic qualities of his protagonist and makes for a lightning quick read. But so much dialogue makes exposition difficult to execute without having it feel heavily stage-managed. Some of the dialogue doesn’t feel all that real. It adds to the feeling that the point of this novel seems to be that it has an important point to make and not so much to tell a story. The plot is almost an appendage, albeit a compelling and at times suspenseful one.
As for the point Eggers is trying to make – it is a deeply pessimistic one. His society is at a loss, utterly perplexed by the serial traumas and changes it is enduring.
Great writing is about truth, and Eggers’ truth clearly is very gloomy. But from a writer often defined by his mirth and hopefulness, this is a distinctly pessimistic turn.
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