Celebrated editor and author Eggers (Hologram for the King, 2012, etc.) returns with his 12th—and final, he says—edited collection of pieces selected by student members of 826 National.
Eclectic is indeed the best word to describe this odd assembly. There are works of fiction (long, short), nonfiction (ditto), tomfoolery and earnestness—and a relentless sense of multiculturalism. There are selections about Guatemala, Cuba, Tokyo, Haiti, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Spain and numerous other locales—including the United States. Just about all socioeconomic classes appear, as well, but the focus is on those who are struggling. The final grim story takes place in a grim iron mine in a grim section of India, and earlier tales present the homeless, the deprived and the criminal—outliers of many sorts. There are lies and sex and violence and numerous manifestations of the notion that we are not a very good species. To their credit, Eggers and the students selected pieces from some sources that are generally off most general readers’ radar—Byliner, Storyville and even a piece from tumblr.com. But noted periodicals are represented here, as well, including the New Yorker, Paris Review and National Geographic. Though many of the authors will also be new to many readers, there is a gripping bullfighting story by Karen Russell, a spy story with a graphics feature by Jennifer Egan and a snarky explanation of a term paper assignment from the late Kurt Vonnegut Jr. There’s also an amusing tale by Nick Hornby about a bitter divorcée, a journalist who starts a column called “Bastard,” which features tales about her ex-husband. Religion appears rarely but has a prominent role in a surreal tale about a religious settlement on a West Indian island where a deep (bottomless?) hole lures some followers to take a leap of faith.
A motley collection to match every mood a relentless reader might have.