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A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
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A Hologram for the King (edition 2012)

by Dave Eggers

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992508,636 (3.43)35
Member:foodairbooks
Title:A Hologram for the King
Authors:Dave Eggers
Info:McSweeney's (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 328 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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English (48)  Dutch (2)  All languages (50)
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
America’s recent Great Recession, from which the economy’s “recovery” is still largely a matter of debate as seen through the eye of the individual beholder, hit the ranks of middle management particularly hard. Suddenly men and women of a certain age (generally those over 50) found themselves jobless and with little prospect of ever replacing their lost jobs with anything that paid anywhere near the wages they were accustomed to earning. Homes were lost, marriages ended, and dreams were forever shattered. Alan Clay, the main character of Dave Eggers’s A Hologram for the King, is one of those people.

The story begins this way: “Alan Clay woke up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It was May 30, 2010. He had spent two days on planes to get there.”

Alan is in Jeddah to sell King Abdullah a holographic teleconference system that could prove to be instrumental in winning for his company the entire IT contract for the King’s new economic city (which at the moment exists primarily on the drawing board and in the minds of the king and his advisers). But the 54-year-old Clay, formerly a key management player in the Schwinn bicycle company when bicycles were still manufactured in the U.S., really knows and understands very little about the software he is there to peddle to the king. He is in the kingdom to introduce the presentation largely because of his previous connections to a distant cousin of the king’s. The king, however, is not a man to be rushed, and for now Alan and his team of four software experts spend their days in a large tent waiting on the man to show up for the software demonstration they hope will win them his business. And they play solitaire, and they sleep, and they wonder if the meeting will ever happen.

Alan, though, is not content to play the waiting game. He has befriended his personal driver, a young man partially educated in Alabama, and the two of them explore aspects of Saudi Arabian society that most Westerners are never allowed to glimpse, much less immerse themselves in to the degree that Alan manages to do it. But Alan wonders what happened to him – how did he end up in Saudi Arabia with his future hopes so closely linked to a product he knows so little about? What happens to him if the king is unimpressed? What happens if the king never shows up? How did it come to this?

Entertaining as it is, A Hologram for the King manages to take a long hard look at the Great Recession through the eyes of one of its typical victims, a man who is unlikely ever to recover all that the recession snatched from him. Perhaps the best that men like Alan can hope for is to recover their personal dignity and self-worth – but that is not an easy thing for an American to do in a place like Saudi Arabia. ( )
  SamSattler | Jul 1, 2016 |
I'm very grateful for this novel: the problems of white, cis, middle-age white men with personal crises simply cannot be discussed enough. Bravo for charting new territory! ( )
  ijustgetbored | Apr 8, 2016 |
I feel like I've grown up with Dave Eggers.

AHWOSG and YSKOV! appealed to my youthful naivete; What is the What and Zeitoun my maturing empathy; the Circle my interest in social media issues and technology (though I disagreed with the simplified, negative message); YF, WAT? ATP, DTLF? my quieting hopelessness as I get way too old to have not done anything yet. I keep expecting to hate the next book of his, or find his simplification of issues boring, and yet I always come away feeling simply--comforted. He's a close friend, far too smart and far too humble for his own good, always happy to spend time with you.

A Hologram for the King harks back to Eggers' interest in simplifying important social issues--in environmental and economic resilience, specifically. Alan Clay is Eggers' American everyman, a selfish and simple guy who just wants to support his daughter (who loathes him, of course), teetering on the embarrassment of bankruptcy. He's succeeded in the 20th-century American dream, which inevitably, in its selfishness and ignorance, ushered in the very collapsing economy that ruined him. Don't mistake this for Yet Another Novel on the mid-life crisis white guy -- its scope is closer to western civilization.

To fulfill the 21st-century equivalent, he's traveled to Saudi Arabia with the aim of selling IT services to King Abdullah's nonexistent King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC). Their presentation is directly with the king, but he never shows up. For days and weeks, they're kept waiting always with a 'Tomorrow, for sure,' and whether the king cares one way or the other about the Americans or his KAEC is a bit nebulous (until it's not). No longer able to export material goods, we're attempting to export the only thing we can--technology or technological expertise--and failing at that because market fundamentalism and cultural wars and whatever else fuels unsustainable economies.

The proposed city's as stupid and impossibly near-sighted as it looks: A monument to our desire to dominate the environment. It's an idea that can't thrive and won't ever thrive due to the need for importing everything in order to keep it green--not just like nearby Dubai, but American cities like Phoenix, Arizona, too.

A highlight: Eggers' characterization is as strong as ever. He has a unique way of capturing the disconnected logic of the everyday, defined by paranoia and self-absorption. E.g., Alan Clay's day-to-day is plagued by

a) rewriting the first few lines of the Letter That Will Change His Daughter's Life, aka that sad, semi-drunk letter every aging depressed parent writes their children hoping to pass on life lessons they themselves never quite figured out

b) worrying about a growth on his neck

c) worrying about how said growth would be perceived by others

d) experimenting with said growth

e) reading too far into his coworkers' expressions

f) poorly applying good--if dated--lessons in salesmanship, e.g., begging for names to create a first-name basis personal connection reads as downright needy and pushy.

Not the most fun person to spend time with, but his worries and fears and fuckups and aspirations all feel real (and relatable) in the most depressing sense of the word. He speaks to the fuckup in all of us, and that's precisely why I feel so connected to Eggers' writing. It's simple, it's passive--maybe even too much of these things--but it tries really damn hard to make its message accessible.

## People worried about our passing over into some robotic state [in the future], but we were so much like robots already, programmed and easy to manipulate. We had buttons, we had circuits, and it could all be mapped and explained, reprogrammed and calibrated. The utter mechanical simplicity of being able to move this oddity, the clitoris, up and down and around, to provoke the greatest pleasure, seemed laughably easy. And so we did it, because it created happiness of some kind. We push the buttons that provide the rewards. Again the greatest use of a human was to be useful. Not to consume, not to watch, but to do something for someone else that improved their life, even for a few minutes. ( )
1 vote rickyrickyricky | Apr 4, 2016 |
I couldn't stop reading this, but when I finished I was unsatisfied. In a good way, though. I wanted to know more about what would happen to Alan Clay. ( )
  seschanfield | Mar 7, 2016 |
I really did not like this book- I found the plot dull and the main character unlikable. And while I am sure Eggers was trying to say something profound about American cultural and the capitalist drive- I was too unmoved to look too deeply into it. The one scene with any real emotional depth is the hunting scene- I will upon occasion catch my mind drifting back to these events, trying to work out my thoughts on the outcome. ( )
  Alidawn | Jan 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
The saving grace is that Eggers' subject is so timely and important, and the way he dramatises it so apt and amusing. [...] Eggers is good at conveying the hallucinatory, weightless feeling of expatriate life in the Gulf states: the featureless hotels that "could have been in Arizona, in Orlando, anywhere"; the wild parties in closed-off diplomatic compounds; the huge structures thrown up by oil wealth in the middle of nowhere.
added by DieterBoehm | editThe Guardian, Theo Tait (Jan 30, 2013)
 
A diverting, well-written novel about a middle-aged American dreamer, joined to a critique of how the American dream has been subverted by outsourcing our know-how and manufacturing to third-world nations. That last is certainly a distinctly contemporary touch. However, as for Alan himself: We’ve seen him and his brothers before, in William Dean Howells’s “The Rise of Silas Lapham,” in Theodore Dreiser’s “The Financier” and Sinclair Lewis’s “Babbitt,” in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” and John Updike’s Rabbit novels. In literature, if not in life, middle-aged businessmen seldom find happiness.
 
Dave Eggers hat einen ebenso vergnüglichen wie gescheiten Roman über den Aberwitz der Globalisierung geschrieben.
 
In the New York Times Book Review, Pico Iyer called the novel “[a] supremely readable parable of America in the global economy that is haunting, beautifully shaped and sad ... With ferocious energy and versatility, [Eggers] has been studying how the world is remaking America ... Eggers has developed an exceptional gift for opening up the lives of others so as to offer the story of globalism as it develops and, simultaneously, to unfold a much more archetypal tale of struggle and loneliness and drift.”
 
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Epigraph
It's not every day that we are needed.
- Samuel Beckett
Dedication
For Daniel McSweeney, Ron Hadley,
and Paul Vida, great men all
First words
Alan Clay woke up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It was May 30, 2010. He had spent two days on planes to get there.
Quotations
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Er zou een tijd komen waarin de wereld mensen voortbracht die sterker waren dan zij. [..] Maar tot die tijd zouden er vrouwen en mannen zijn zoals Hanne en Alan, onvolmaakt en zonderde weg naar de volmaaktheid te kennen.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 193636574X, Hardcover)

In a rising Saudi Arabian city, far from weary, recession-scarred America, a struggling businessman pursues a last-ditch attempt to stave off foreclosure, pay his daughter’s college tuition, and finally do something great. In A Hologram for the King, Dave Eggers takes us around the world to show how one man fights to hold himself and his splintering family together in the face of the global economy’s gale-force winds. This taut, richly layered, and elegiac novel is a powerful evocation of our contemporary moment — and a moving story of how we got here.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:49 -0400)

"In a rising Saudi Arabian city, far from weary, recession-scarred America, a struggling businessman pursues a last-ditch attempt to stave off foreclosure, pay his daughter's college tuition, and finally do something great"--Publisher.

(summary from another edition)

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Editions: 0241145872, 0241965152

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