A Hologram for the KingBook | Dave Eggers By Greg Dybec
All hail the modern American allegory.
Written with repose and an almost leisurely quality, Dave Eggers' fourth work of fiction, A Hologram for the King, exists, at times, as a less invasive, Saudi Arabian The Rum Diary, focused on the contemporary version of a defeated yet hopeful Willy Loman who decides not to take his own life. Eggers, known for globe-trotting in both his fiction and nonfiction works, establishes a slow-paced, dream-like Saudi Arabia, in which aging American salesman Alan Clay has been sent by an information technology company to assist a team of young employees with presenting their services and holographic technology to the king in hopes of landing a deal that will allow them to wire King Abdullah Economic City. KAEC, as the locals refer to it as, is a desolate stretch of desert bordering the sea, which promises to one day become a great commercial hub that will allow certain freedoms that most Saudi Arabian cities do not. However, as Alan and the team wait anxiously in a tent in the desert, it becomes clear that the king may never arrive and that the city itself may be nothing more than a dispossessed fantasy.
The free time gives Alan a chance to embark on his own journeys, as he befriends his young driver, self-diagnoses himself with a spinal tumor, discovers powerful and highly illegal moonshine, and reflects back on his failures as a husband, father, and salesman. With clean, uncluttered prose, Eggers masterfully weaves an allegory of the American Businessman, with several passages and conversations dedicated to the regrets of outsourcing labor abroad. At times, A Hologram for the King moves slowly, but that is because Alan's world moves slowly as he is worn down by desert heat and waits anxiously for news of the king's arrival. Eggers controls the novel's pace with precision, painting a dry yet mesmerizing portrait of the desert and the crowded, contradictory cities that surround it. Through the many economic failures and rapid globalization presented throughout the novel, Eggers ultimately declares that while business may have boundaries and obstructions, self-discovery can occur in the strangest of environments among the strangest of strangers.
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