Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Heartbreaking Genius

Dave Eggers has written a new form of novel, an anything goes type of narrative, a manic obsessive point of view that shows the frenzied mindset of an aspiring yuppy nerd; something like Jack Kerouac meets JD.Salinger. The novel’s locale is Silicon Valley, Chicago and New York; the perfect places to give a snapshot of the country especially start-ups like a new magazine business; plus the brilliant way the orphans try to make up for the loss of both parents, an extraordinary account of survival. This is the second work by Eggers I have read, the first is ‘Zeitoun’, another ground breaking book that has themes in multiple levels: the disaster in New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina, the story of Middle Eastern immigrants, especially hard working entrepreneurs achieving the American dream, the racism and prejudice against Muslims after 9/11 plus  Iraq and Afghanistan wars; the chaos of government responding to a natural disaster. Eggers is a genius, a brilliant writer who is unafraid to address delicate issues, attacking head on the core subject, perhaps due to the sudden loss of his parents that he had to overcompensate in everything, bringing to mind the theme of Malcolm Gladwells’ ‘David and Goliath, where famous dyslexic achievers like David Boies, Brian Glazer, Richard Branson, overcome their constraints and become world class in their endeavors.

Similarly, several examples in the Gladwell’s book show high achievers like American presidents who lost their father but have risen to greatness such as Washington, Clinton and Obama. ‘David and Goliath’ is perhaps Gladwell’s best book to date, concise and to the point, explaining well that the underdog is actually someone with a strategy in mind, unwilling to accept the common thinking and striking out on his own and winning against superior forces. For instance, orphans achieving great things even without parents, turning a disadvantage into a strong motivation to succeed. I finished both books this week, running through them through the weekend or listening to the audio book to and from work, hungry to grasp their ideas. Good to have finished both, avoiding late return fines from the library, though missing out on the work that I planned to do in the weekend. On Saturday we picked up my son from college, driving for about 4 hours to and from Columbia, going to the excellent State museum and eating at a Japanese Hibachi restaurant, though it was not really authentic but more like an Americanized version with emphasis on quantity and less on the quality, losing the delicateness of Asian cuisine; a fast food version whose incarnation had only a slight resemblance to the original.

During the weekend after coming back from Columbia, I watched Baz Lurhmanns excellent movie ‘The Great Gatzby’; his over the top rendition of the classic that I think clearly captures the excess of the 1920’s including the depiction of New York; his staging of the scenes and the acting I think encapsulated Fitzgerald’s book more than the earlier movie starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow; allowing one to finally understand Fitzgerald’s genius. The DVD’s special features focused on Ric Burns’ documentary ‘New York’ especially the section on Fitzgerald, capturing the magic of Manhattan, its golden years and promise. This was a brilliant move of Lurhmann to study Burns documentary about the city and use its insight to depict its essence. It is the first time one understood F. Scott Fitzgerald and what he meant to the American psyche. The movie is a  work of genius, the coming together of talents to bring to light a literary classic into the visual age; brilliant capturing the interior landscape of the book that it becomes better than the written original; that one can return to the literary tome with better insight and understanding that one would not normally see. I think Fitzgerald (like Salinger) portrayed the essence of New York and one should read him to understand the city. Fitzgerald's life is tragic, dying relatively young, an alcoholic, his wife becoming mad in a sanitarium, but his writing has an exquisite delicateness, completing several classic books and short stories. Whereas Eggers is like a writer in steroids, pushing the envelope several times, expressing a youthful enthusiasm with a tinge of darkness, emerging from a terrible tragic loss into a hopeful  future. 

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