Executive Times






2005 Book Reviews


How We Are Hungry by Dave Eggers


Rating: (Recommended)




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Dave Eggers’ short story collection, How We Are Hungry, explores what we are looking for from life, and through our alternating behavior from animal to civilized impulses, we find the life we seek. Eggers is a talented writer, but some of these stories are so melancholy and depressing, that taking a pause between stories may revive a reader before tackling the next tale. I found some of the shorter stories in How We Are Hungry to lack enough character development to catch my interest, while the longer stories seemed to showcase his talent and allow the development of more interesting and captivating characters, both human and animal. A close reading shows how carefully Eggers chooses specific words, and makes it seem effortless.


Here’s an excerpt, all of the story titled, “On Wanting To Have At Least Three Walls Up Before She Gets Home,” pp. 55-56:


He is building a small house in the backyard for when their baby is old enough to use it as a fort or clubhouse or getaway, and he wants to have three walls up before his wife gets home. She is at her mother’s house because her mother has slipped on the ice—a skating party, Christmas-themed—and needs help with preparations for her holiday party, planned before the accident. It’s snowing lightly and the air is cold enough to see. He is working on the small house with a new drill he’s bought that day. It’s a portable drill and he marvels at its effi­ciency. He wants to prove something to his wife, because he doesn’t build things like this often, and she has implied that she likes it when he does build things, and when he goes bik­ing or plays rugby in the men’s league. She was impressed when he assembled a telescope, a birthday gift, in two hours, when the manual had said it would take four. So when she’s gone during this day, and the air is gray and dense and the snow falls like ash, he works quickly, trying to get the foun­dation done. Once he’s finished with the foundation, he decides that to impress her—and he wants to impress her in some way every day and wants always to want to impress her—he will need at least three walls up on the house by the time she gets home.


 There’s not a wasted word in this story, and the theme of hunger or desire becomes central. Description is clear, and there are four characters introduced, each of which we’d like to learn more about, and are left wanting, which is often a consequence of the short story genre. I might have titled the story “Impress,” given the frequency of that word in the story. How We Are Hungry showcases the talent of a fine writer, and presents ideas about living that will leave readers thinking long after each story ends.


Steve Hopkins, April 23, 2005



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the May 2005 issue of Executive Times


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