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You Shall Know Our Velocity, Dave Eggers

He writes in.
Blunt pedantic circles that sometimes. Make you question your sanity and. Visceral understanding of modern literature in general.

But that’s the beauty of Dave Eggers, the columnist/journalist-turned-novelist, author of You Shall Know Our Velocity. Vignettes? Flashbacks? Stream-of-conscious narrative? Experimental pairing of found object art with the written word? Eggers says “fuck it” to society and uses them all, stylistically paralleling his syntax to the voice of his characters.

Basically, this book is a clusterfuck of things– none of which are bad, all of which are strange, and somehow this amalgam of wordvomit makes a very interesting, if not difficult to follow, read.

It inspired me to do a lot of things:

  1. Use many trite platitudes and clichés in a speech I almost gave at my high school graduation,
  2. Look up “international travel budget hacks” obsessively for about two weeks before I realized I could never realistically farm tomatoes in east Berlin in exchange for a free homestay,
  3. Reaffirm my commitment to teaching myself French before I remembered that I don’t have the patience for that, and
  4. Literally revolutionize my conception of caste in relation to social justice and moral obligation to exact it.

“What does she mean??” You ask. “Why can’t I go back to someone normal like Harper Lee?? Scout taught me everything I need to know about postwar minority social dynamics!!!!!”

But she didn’t. And you would know that if you picked up a copy of Velocity.

Its narrator, Will, attempts to overcome the death of a close friend, a physical brutalization, and subsequent PTSD. He does this the same way any rational human being would: by spending a third of the money he receives from an advertising sketch on a nonrefundable plane ticket to a third world country (apologies, that’s “developing state” for the politically correct pundits out there), where he divides the rest in small stacks to donate to local village (wo)men.

He does this in a variety of ways, including (but not limited to) playing cartographer for young Estonian schoolchildren, taping cash to a donkey alongside obscure German heavy metal references, and stalking basketball players.

But his quest to distribute tens of thousands of dollars begs the question: who should receive the money? Dirty kids walking on the side of the street? An old man too poor to receive medical attention? Are people ballsy enough to ask for money less deserving of it? And once distributed, will access to their newfound wealth corrupt the locals’ lifestyle–or worse, put them in danger of robbery or homicide?

But most significantly: how do power dynamics on an individual level evolve when one person decides the outcome of someone’s life? How do we change as human beings when we’re behaving more as a deity than a man?

And why does Will have a best friend who is, for some inexplicable reason, named “Hand?”

But I digress: in all seriousness, Velocity flips our conception of charity on its head.

It’s beautiful and heavy and morose. But most of all, it’s necessary.

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