How We Are Hungry
by Dave Eggers
(McSweeney's)

At this point, you're either sick of Dave Eggers and his publishing house, McSweeney's, or you're not. Their indie bookstore pervasiveness has reinvigorated interest in smart pop literature, but that ubiquity is a double-edged sword, for many have become so sick of the house's relatively gargantuan rep that they won't get near anything that bears the Eggers or McSweeney's name.

But fuck those guys. Once you get past the hype, it turns out that Eggers is a damned good writer, far from the cutesy, talent-less hack that most haters sneeringly portray him as. And--to get to the point--How We Are Hungry is perhaps his most technically accomplished book yet, containing some of his best work. Collecting Eggers' latest short stories, Hungry also corrals together some of his stories that have been previously published in other spots.

What's most clear about Hungry is that when freed from the weight of his breakthrough novel/autobiography A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and the expectations of his follow-up, And You Shall Know Our Velocity, Eggers is most at home when playing around in his dark, introspective short stories. Technique-wise, everybody thinks Eggers is a postmodernist, but Hungry proves him to be a steadfast modernist--there's no winking here, and little intrusion of anything resembling that loosely tossed-about phrase, "meta." Eggers' narrators ride horses in Egypt and waves in Costa Rica, hike mountains and keep suicide watches. As a gleefully running dog, they drown, or, as a father, they look back from the future at an accomplished world peace and the triumph of common sense over today's vicious government. And through them all is a mature, tempered, and graceful Eggers--his melodrama from Heartbreaking Work and his exuberance from Velocity have made peace with each other in a series of stories that are forebodingly meditative yet often read like an adrenaline-tinged travelogue. For those that have tried Eggers and not found him to their liking, Hungry isn't going to change any minds--but for everyone else, Eggers' latest proves a welcome and often surprising advancement from a writer and a publishing house that are too often thought of as being simple and static.