‘Your Fathers, Where Are They?…’ by Dave Eggers – Another Angry Incoherent Young Man

‘Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?’ By Dave Eggers    (2014) – 212 pages

 

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This new novel by Dave Eggers is about a young man who takes several hostages and chains them to fixtures at a decommissioned deserted army base (Fort Ord?) in California in order to ask them questions that are important to him but certainly not important to me.  His hostages include an astronaut, a Congressman, a sixth grade teacher, a policeman, and the young man’s own mother.

The young man kidnaps the astronaut, because the young man is upset that the NASA space shuttle program was cancelled.

 “And now we kill it all, and we pay the Russians for a backseat on their rockets.  You couldn’t write a sicker ending to the whole story.  How do the Russians have the money for rockets and we don’t?”

 I’ve read and liked two of Dave Eggers novels before, ‘Hologram for the King’ and ‘The Circle’.  Both of these novels made my yearly Top Ten lists.  However ‘Your Fathers, Where Are They?…’ did not work for me at all.  I found this novel with the very long title a very thin gruel.

The main problem I believe here is that Eggers is trying to have things two opposite ways at the same time.  First he has as his main character a young man who is extremely angry and frustrated almost to the point of incoherence.  This young man is acting out his anger and frustration by taking these people hostage and asking them strident questions like those he asks the astronaut about the space program.  Yet somehow Eggers apparently thinks this inane dialogue between this confused young man and his hostages will be meaningful and scintillating to the reader.  It is not.

There is a half-hearted attempt at providing a more valid reason for the hostage taking which involves the policeman’s shooting and killing of the young man’s friend  who apparently was molested by the teacher as a boy.  However the first two hostages have nothing to do with this incident at all.

Later the young man meets a woman on the beach to whom he is attracted, but that situation is tacked on and has nothing to do with the hostage taking.

The novel is all dialogue, all conversations between this disturbed young man and his hostages.  With no outside context for the dialogue, it all seemed terribly sparse.  I know it would be artificial if a young person today were eloquent and well spoken, but perhaps sub-expressive people should not be allowed to talk much in a novel.  All this dialogue is less than interesting as it is. There is not enough variation in talking styles, so the dialogue all seems monotonic.

From now on, I won’t automatically read Dave Eggers’ next novel without making absolutely sure it is worth reading.

 

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2 responses to this post.

  1. I’m not a fan of Eggers, but what a disappointment when a reliable writer lets you down. Doesn’t it seem that this book came out awfully fast after The Circle? Maybe he’s writing too much…

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    Reply

    • Hi Kat,
      Yes, this one was apparently a quickie. I like Eggers because he started McSweeneys, and anyone who can keep a literary journal going now has my support.

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