By December 4, 2006 1 Comments Read More →

Dave Eggers vs. Dave Eggers

Dave Eggers versus David Foster Wallace, circa 1996, versus Dave Eggers versus David Foster Wallace, circa 2006.

Or, better, Dave Eggers, circa 1996, versus Dave Eggers, circa 2006.

Traver Kauffman at Rake’s Progress found Dave Eggers to be of two minds about Infinite Jest, albeit ten years apart.

Well, “rigorously unpretentious” (2006) isn’t exactly the same thing as being full of “superfluous and wildly tangential flights of lexical diarrhea” (1996), now is it?

This post has ignited mild brouhaha in the blogosphere. And Kauffman has upped the ante, offering to contribute money to 826 Valencia in exchange for “a brief explanation of Dave’s change of opinion.”

I’ve definitely changed my mind about books–there’s nothing wrong with that. And I agree that people who put their minds on paper (or electrical impulses or whatever) are easier targets than those who change their minds over a beer in the corner bar. But all Kauffman wants is acknowledgment.

It’s OK to change your mind, I think we can all agree, but isn’t it important to own up to it? 

Seemingly Kauffman would have been satisfied if, in his newly revised assessment of Infinite Jest, Eggers had merely said, “You know, when I first read this book I didn’t like it very much–now I love it!” Fair enough. And I can’t imagine not considering a similar statement if I was about to change my mind in such a public fashion.

Halfway through the opinion I was about to offer I suddenly got tired of the subject. Is it me or are people just more thin-skinned these days? What’s wrong with asking a prominent author to explain himself? Is it actually possible for a blogger to “take down” a writer as prominent as Dave Eggers? What’s literature without a little sport?

I loved Dave Eggers’ most recent book, What Is the What, and by all accounts he’s a prince of a guy. But I don’t want to live in a world without some good literary arguments. So I’m siding with Kauffman: explain yourself, Eggers!

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About the Author:

Keir Graff is the editor of Booklist Online and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix.

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