Posts Tagged ‘abdulrahman zeitoun’

Zeitoun and the Art of the Soft Sell

Note to all potential readers of Zeitoun: It is located in the Biography section at Barnes & Noble, not, as one who has read Dave Eggers’ other more-or-less-based-on-real-life-if-slightly-fictionalized works might suspect, in the Fiction/Literature section. Furthermore, remember that, in the Biography section, it is alphabetized by subject and not author; this is because people don’t really care who writes a biography.

This is the weird circumstance of Zeitoun, a biography about a man—and more accurately, a family—who is much less famous than the biographer. Eggers is one of a handful of writers universally included in any conversation about the “Voice of the Generation”—consideration earned largely off of his almost-living-up-to-the-title A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.

Now, if you know anything about “VotG” discussion, you know that authors don’t stumble their way into such territory by keeping things simple and straightforward and understated. You have to do something pretty out-there, and you have to do it really, really well. That’s what Eggers pulled off in A Heartbreaking  Work, a memoir focused on how the deaths of the author’s parents and his subsequent raising of his much younger brother. It is a very personal book—obvs—detailing not only Eggers’ guilt-inducing desire to avoid walking through the room containing his dying mother, but also more mundane things like his unabashed appreciation for Journey* and his own masturbatory habits.**

*It was written in 2000, well before “Don’t Stop Believin’” was aired on Laguna Beach and became cool to like again. How do I know this? Because you couldn’t get away with writing something like “I worry about exposing him to bands like Journey, the appreciation of which will surely bring him nothing but the opprobrium of his peers” today.

**They were T.M.I. in his book; they’d be beyond that in this review.

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