As far as American Novelists go, San Franciscan Dave Eggers takes the cake as one of the countries best. Breaking out with his memoir, A Heart Breaking Work of Staggering Genius, which won best book of the year in 2000 at the Times, Washington Post, and San Francisco Chronicle. His first novel, You Shall Know Our Velocity!, is still my favorite among his many works including What is the What, the autobiography of Sudanese refugee Valentino Achak Deng, and more recently The Circle, set around a tech worker Mae whose company stretches the boundaries of privacy on social media to the extreme.
In his 2002 novel, You Shall Know Our Velocity, we follow two close friends, Will and Hand, shortly after a tragic death. They’re armed with plane tickets, visas, and $80,000 they plan to give away alleviating poverty in a few third world countries. They plan to travel around the world in a week but when plans go awry Will’s dream of going to the pyramid at Cheops slowly dies as they move from Senegal, to Morroco, to Estonia, and Latvia. Through their misadventures, readers seem to experience the dying dreams of travel, philanthropy, and globalization. Both comedy and action surface but the entire story hangs on the bandages wrapped around the protagonists face from a beating at a storage facility, a wound latter attributed to Hand who had abandoned Will with the possessions of their dead friend Jack. Has this whole trip been a way of running from their friend’s untimely demise? Through their outrageous methods of alieving themselves of the money Eggers satirizes the sad attempts at charity so common when westerners visit the third world; they are incompetent, naive, broken, and altogether human.