You Shall Know Our Velocity

Dave Eggers

I got this book when McSweeney’s had their big sale last year. I never read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and I never read this one even after I bought it. It happened that when I was unpacking my books, I was a week into a misguided mission to read Roland Barthes’ Image, Music, Text. I was thankful to give up on that, but while this book was easier to read, it wasn’t too enjoyable.

The story concerns two friends who start a week-long trip around the world to give away a bunch of money. Apparently this trip was motivated by the narrator Will’s overwhelming grief after their friend Jack died suddenly in a car accident, so it should be kind of emotional and touching. Unfortunately the two dudes are just assholes. And then there are the bad attempts at multilinear storytelling that fall hollowly flat. It’s strange because I think of Eggers as a pretty good writer from various non-book writings of his that I’ve read, but this story seems structurally flawed.

After finishing the book today, I started reading some reviews and commentary about it and find out that a later edition included a supplemental section from Will’s friend Hand that discounts many of the bigger parts of the story (including saying that Will made Jack up to deal with his mother’s death) and was retitled Sacrament. I downloaded just the extra Sacrament part on the McSweeney’s site but only managed to skim through it before getting annoyed at his claims of Will’s all-out fabrication of pieces of the story.

I don’t know if it’s just that I’ve read some books that I really loved lately, but this was so surprisingly disappointing. For some reason I just didn’t buy the unreliability of the narrator aspect of Hand’s addition to the story. Why should I believe any of it then?