In a rising Saudi Arabian city, far from weary, recession-scarred America, a struggling businessman pursues a last-ditch attempt to stave off foreclosure, pay his daughter’s college tuition, and finally do something great. In A Hologram for the King, Dave Eggers takes us around the world to show how one man fights to hold himself and his splintering family together in the face of the global economy’s gale-force winds.
This taut, richly layered, and elegiac novel is a powerful evocation of our contemporary moment - and a moving story of how we got here.
©2012 Dave Eggers (P)2012 Recorded Books
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
Sad and beautiful. Eggers captures the pain, fear and insecurity of a maturing, outsourced economy and an aging, disappointed businessman. Set in the KSA, this novel reminded me of Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot' and Miller's 'Death of a Salesman' if both had been written by a Hemingway or Mailer. 'Hologram for the King' stands as a subtle paean to the emptiness, failure, loneliness, and slow economic decay (and death) we ALL experience eventually. The best parts of this novel, for me, were the interactions Alan (the protagonist) has with his Saudi driver and his female doctor. Alan's experiences with the foreign and the exotic other illuminate just how similar we are, and how absurd our self-made mental prisons appear to those we interact with. But still -- we can't help but wait for the King and hope.
Too many Man vs. World stories rely on characters who lack flaws. Characters who would be perfectly great at everything if the world would stop keeping them down.
Alan, our lead in Hologram, is a deeply flawed man. He is jealous and fearful, watching his life and dreams fade away and out of his grasp.
Alan wants to play by the rules, all the rules, but the rules refuse to stand still. He wants to do the right thing, but the right thing is never clear. He makes good decisions that go bad and bad decisions that work out just fine.
He is a sympathetic man, immanently relatable. This is good, because the story itself, when considered from afar, is quite boring. The journey of an interesting character struggling in an interesting location is enough for Dave Eggers to have a winner.
Narrator Dion Graham makes this an enjoyable read, combined with the all-too-human failings of the main character Alan. He has loser and winner characteristics that make him likable. Combine that with the sheer unfamiliarity of Saudi Arabia, deftly portrayed through Alan's reactions and thoughts, and I got something out of the ordinary that I hadn't expected. I tend to listen to books on dog walks, and I can tell you the dog got a lot of exercise in the two days it took me to listen to this. So perhaps it can be said that "I couldn't put it down." I plan on reading more Dave Eggers books as a result.
This book holds no surprises; you can see exactly where the characters are going. You cringe for the principal character as he mismanages every situation, but had he been brilliant, the mission would still have failed. Its outcome foreordained. It is an advance look at our own self portrait. The willful tossing aside of the shredded social contract(s) that used to cushiion our lives, and the hinted at future that awaits us behind the next "free trade act".
The three Chinese vans parked outside the Vendors tent. Precious. Arrogance vs preparation.
The Saudi doctor. She was the only person in the book that displayed any humanity. Also, very sexy.
You hear people say, "(blank) novel haunted me." But dig a little deeper, and it's usually some writer's trick of outrageous violence (or some other offense against humanity) at the center of the sentiment. Yet here's a book that's been haunting me for months now, and it didn't contain a single scene of murder, rape or torture to do it.
How? It's a very spare book--an "easy" listen. But each scene is drawn with purpose and originality. I didn't expect to like the setting in Saudi Arabia--but Eggers skips the easy exoticisms and creates a world at once unlike anything I expected, yet totally recognizable.
At the center of it all is a tale of the decline and dissolution of Schwinn Bicycles (yes!). It's a "backstory" item, but Eggers returns to it again and again--the whole book's really a rumination on just what the heck went wrong, and what such failures of modernization/corporatization/globalization/etc. mean for a man trying to survive in the world today, (and so we return to the question of murder, rape and torture...).
Now THAT'S haunting.
All this is accomplished without being preachy, or prescriptive. Just perceptive.
Also, the reader Dion Graham really is superlative--I bought the book on a Salon recommendation that praised his ability to capture in his read the way an Eggers page is "composed" (with eccentric spacing, elisions, etc.). Thought this would make for a sort of avant-garde, "performance art" experience. Not at all--it was like being inside someone else's train-of-thought, but without the claustrophobia. Incredible vocal characterizations. No way I would've gotten as much out of text on a page!
The narration sweeps you along. You enter a desert setting for a life that hovers on the edge of disappointment, reflecting the downward spiral of western aspiration . . . yet the character's American optimism flickers again. The people are beautifully drawn and you can care about them even as all the answers aren't clear.
When the character goes to the mountains with his driver friend, and rides out into the night to help hunt a wolf.
Yes. The effects of capitalism across 3 generations is a great story.
Many people can relate to dreams falling short and temptations that should be avoided.
His presentation is honest and earnest, strait forward. I like the way he represents men and women in his auditory style.
I kept thinking back to my Dad, his career in metallurgy, and the way he was against America's economy being service based versus manufacturing based.
I lived the deep description of everything and the authors ability to transform a mundane moment into a humorous emotion filled event.
At the hotel when he observes the life coaching class
Good book, story wasn't as impressive as the writing.
I am not sure if it wasn't for the great performance by Dion Graham whether the story can stand by itself. However, I got to say that I was yearning to go back to hear the remainder of the story between intervals of work :) My problem with the story is that it is depiction of what is wrong with current day America with lots of symbols (specially when Allen was with Youssef trying to hunt a wolf!) but overall it lacked a catharsis.
This is one of the best audiobooks I have listened to in a long time. Dion Graham, the narrator, manages a tone that is paradoxically grim yet with bouts of hope and, even more surprising, romance. He is the main character. He is not just reading his sad ballad.
The story was taut, episodic with fascinating and unexpected detours. The story moves well. This could make a great movie with little need for tinkering.
When you think that you have lost everything, you sometimes discover that you were wrong....
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