With much anticipation, and little patience for an electronic solution, I shelled out £21.99, plus VAT (I’m not sure what the exchange rate is today, but I think makes around one-thousand dollars), for the hard-copy release of “A Hologram for the King,” by Dave Eggers. Truth be told, I was an easy sale. Not just because the book’s cover was bounded in an antiquated regal gold that reminded me of my alma mater – it’s just that the dude knows how to write a good story. I tend to instantly relate to his characters and enjoy the narrative voice that seems to make his pages turn themselves.
This book was no different, though, as a surprise love interest points out late in the story, the whole thing was just “very, very sad.” The sadness did not result from tear-jerking tragedy, an apocalyptic failure at love, or the recanting of depression-fueled disappointment – though these things certainly made an appearance. The story was sad because it just seemed so real. I mean Murakami real. So real that it wasn’t just sad, it was very, very sad.
The main character, Alan, finds himself in a utopian development in Saudi Arabia vying for a lucrative contract to help alleviate his financial and personal woes back in America. He and his team have crossed continents to present his company’s holographic technology to the development’s main backer, the King. The only problem is the King is nowhere to be found and, as a result, Alan is put into a lengthy holding pattern alternating between his hotel, the development, and a few points in-between. It is here where Dave Eggers weaves his tale.
In the end, Alan points out that “in death, you can hope for dignity but should expect disarray.” The book is a well written bummer, a reminder that our motivations just may be right for all the wrong reasons. One day I could easily end up in the middle of the desert asking myself, why did I spend 30 years selling widgets?
Would I recommend it? One thing is for sure, I didn’t want it to be over. I wanted more, and for me that’s a pretty good litmus test. The characters were certainly relatable, even though I’m in a much different place right now – I’ve never been happier, and I think for all the right reasons. Not my favorite by Eggers, but worth a read – in electronic form and US Dollars.