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You Shall Know Our Velocity [Paperback]

Dave Eggers
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 April 2004

You Shall Know Our Velocity is a compelling and thought-provoking novel by award-winning Dave Eggers

Will and Hand are burdened by $38,000 and the memory of their friend Jack. Taking a week out of their lives, they decide to travel around the world to give the money away. They can't really say why they're doing it, just that it needs to be done. Perhaps it's something to do with Jack's death - perhaps they'll find the reason later. But as their plans are frustrated, twisted and altered at every step and the natives prove far from grateful to their benefactors, Will and Hand find that the world is an infinitely bigger, more surreal and exhilarating place than they ever realised. In fact, it's somewhere to get lost in . . .

'Dave Eggers has become J. D. Salinger, Ken Kesey and Jack Kerouac rolled into one' The Times

'Endearing, funny . . . the prose is high on energy and Eggers' talents make it worth the trip'


Award-winning author Dave Eggers is the editor and founder of American literary journal McSweeney's and the founder of 826 Valencia, a non-profit literacy centre for disadvantaged young people in San Francisco. He is the author of several novels, collections of short stories and non-fiction works, including his first novel A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, What is the What (winner of the Prix Medici and finalist of the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award), Zeitoun, The Wild Things (a novel adapted from the illustrated book Where the Wild Thing Are by Maurice Sendak), How We Are Hungry, You Shall Know Our Velocity and, most recently, A Hologram for the King.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (1 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141013451
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141013459
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 168,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dave Eggers is the author of six previous books, including "Zeitoun," a nonfiction account a Syrian-American immigrant and his extraordinary experience during Hurricane Katrina and "What Is the What," a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award. That book, about Valentino Achak Deng, a survivor of the civil war in southern Sudan, gave birth to the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, run by Mr. Deng and dedicated to building secondary schools in southern Sudan. Eggers is the founder and editor of McSweeney's, an independent publishing house based in San Francisco that produces a quarterly journal, a monthly magazine ("The Believer"), and "Wholphin," a quarterly DVD of short films and documentaries. In 2002, with Nínive Calegari he co-founded 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for youth in the Mission District of San Francisco. Local communities have since opened sister 826 centers in Chicago, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Ann Arbor, Seattle, and Boston. In 2004, Eggers taught at the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and there, with Dr. Lola Vollen, he co-founded Voice of Witness, a series of books using oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world. A native of Chicago, Eggers graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in journalism. He now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.

Product Description

Amazon Review

You Shall Know Our Velocity is the first novel from Dave Eggers, author of the bestselling memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Although this is a work of fiction, its themes, preoccupations, and even its pair of central characters will feel strikingly familiar to readers of his unorthodox autobiography. Where A Heartbreaking Work… charted, among many, many other things, the death of Eggers' parents, this book's narrator, Will Chmielewski, is mourning the loss of his childhood friend, Jack. In the wake of Jack's death, Will, who came into $80,000 dollars after his silhouette was used as a logo on a lightbulb, embarks on a trip around the world with another old friend, Hand. They will not only make their wayward circumnavigation in a week--"we'd see what we could see in six, six and half days, and then go home"--but they'll also dispose of Will's lightbulb money along the way.

Flying from Chicago, these twenty-something, philanthropic Phileas Foggs (Generation Y's Bob and Bing, in fact) hope to start their odyssey in Greenland and finish on the top of Cheops pyramid in Egypt. Of course bad weather, visa regulations, the intransigence of airline authorities and "the unmitigated slowness of moving from place to place" consistently thwart their plans. ("Should we not have teleporting by now?" an exasperated Will asks at one point.) Journeying to Senegal through Morocco and onto Estonia and Latvia, the hapless duo devise increasingly bizarre means to, arbitrarily, hand money to needy locals. They try to pin wads of notes onto goats, over-tip pole dancers, hire cabs for minute distances and create a "real treasure" hunt, replete with map.

There is a curious unreality about how Will and Hand interact with the people they meet. Like Eggers and his younger brother Toph in A Heartbreaking Work, they've retreated into a kind of male adolescent fantasy bubble where the world is a largely a game for their own amusement. The idea of rich yanks dolling out cash willy nilly is, as Eggers is well aware, itself slightly tasteless. The narrative is however, almost mercilessly, metacritical--Will's every worry, doubt, and guilty reflection is taken to its nth degree. Eggers' self-ironising style is as infuriating and as beguiling as ever, but this is a far less tricksy book than his memoir. There are fewer typographical gimmicks and, while it would be impossible ever to describe Eggers' prose as restrained, his writing is less ostentatious here and for that reason all the more impressive. It's simply a quite startling and occasionally tender piece of work, buzzing with annoyingly magnificent sentences, ideas and jokes. --Travis Elborough --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Headlong, heartsick and footsore....Frisbee sentences that sail, spin, hover, circle and come back to the reader like gifts of gravity and grace....Nobody writes better than Dave Eggers about young men who aspire to be, at the same time, authentic and sincere." -- "The New York Times Book Review "You Shall Know Our Velocity! is the work of a wildly talented writer... Like Kerouac's book, Eggers's could inspire a generation as much as it documents it." -- "LA Weekly "There's an echolet of James Joyce there and something of Saul Bellow's Chinatown bounce, but we're carried into the narrative by a fluidity of line that is Eggers's own." -- "Entertainment Weekly "Eggers is a wonderful writer, bold and inventive, with the technique of a magic realist." --" Salon "An entertaining and profoundly original tale." -- "San Francisco Chronicle "Eggers 's writing really takes off -- his forte is the messy, funny tirade, stuffed with convincing pain and wry observations." -- "Newsday "Often rousing ...achieves a kind of anguished, profane poetry." -- "Newsweek "The bottom line that matters is this: Eggers has written a terrific novel, an entertaining and imaginative tale." -- "The Boston Globe "There are some wonderful set-pieces here, and memorable phrases tossed on the ground like unwanted pennies from the guy who runs the mint." -- "The Washington Post Book World "Powerful.... Eggers's strengths as a writer are real: his funny pitch-perfect dialog; the way his prose delicately captures the bumblebee blundering of Will's thoughts; ... and the stream-water clarity of his descriptions.... There is genius here.... Who is doing more, single-handedly andsingle-mindedly, for American writing?" -- "Time

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
I was talking to Hand, one of my two best friends, the one still alive, and we were planning to leave. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice idea, but a bit confused 5 Jan 2009
I had high hopes for this novel, having greatly enjoyed Eggers's clever, intricate, self-referential A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. A lot of other people liked that remarkable book too, so I wasn't the only one wondering how he'd be able to maintain that high standard in the transition from a semi-autobiographical work to a novel.

The initial idea is promising: Will and Hand attempt to recover from the trauma of their friend Jack's death by travelling round the world giving away money. Characteristically, Eggers inserts a rider before the story begins, informing the reader that the narrator is now deceased too - i.e. the story is being told from beyond the grave. Not all of Eggers's daring stylistic tricks are successful, and I'm not entirely sure of the validity of this one as it felt more like an unnecessary complication which had been bolted on at the beginning in an effort to make the story more quirky - certainly, I didn't think of it as having any effect on the way I read the following pages.

The writing in the following pages is very good: I thought he was particularly adept at conjouring up the sense of wistfulness that travel in a foreign land can engender, as you look from (for example) the window of a speeding car at people, streets, buildings, animals and landscapes that you're seeing for the first and - almost certainly - last time. This was the aspect of the book that I enjoyed the most, as I found I wasn't all that interested in the adventures of Will and Hand: anyone who apparently thinks that they can just turn up to an airport in the Third World and complain that their expectations of being able to fly off to anywhere they choose aren't being met isn't doing a good job at exciting my sympathy.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational ! 18 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
With a hologram for the king already under my belt it was a pleasure to pick up another Dave Eggers novel and find it equally absorbing. Two crazy but believable characters act out their dreams and disasters in an unlikely quest which on the surface is about unloading as much of their newly found wealth as possible whilst tripping around the world. Seen through the eyes of the main character, Will ;this is a journey that raises questions about guilt ,fate ,death, responsibility and how we live together .It may not give you any clear answers but I was captivated by its overall sense of zest and its celebration of life.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You SHALL indeed 30 Jan 2004
By incuspo
Eggers has to be one of my favourite authors! Ok so he's only written a couple of books but his style is fantastic. Will's (Eggers main character here) stream of consciousness dialogues with himself appear so honest and brave that it is almost as though you are inside his head. The realatiy and power of the language used and the blunt and almost desparate situations are so real that it is almost hard to believe that Eggers hasnt actually experienced this 'holiday' himself. A fantastic read that will have you pondering the make up of the universe and much more.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy it! 4 Sep 2004
You Shall Know Our Velocity is Dave Eggers' follow-up to his Heart-Breaking Work of Staggering Genius from 2000. While I really liked his first book, it seemed to get rather mixed reviews. A lot of people whined about how "self-obsessed" he was, and how it was "just about his life," but come on, it was basically a MEMOIR, that was the POINT, what do you WANT him to talk about. Still though, I can sort of see what they're saying. Some people want books to be more plot-driven, and I guess if that's what you like then, yeah, you probably thought Genius sucked. What I loved about it though is how, through the book, you felt like you really knew Dave. He's got this great, easy, first-person style that makes it feel like he's talking directly to you. He's also totally hilarious, and occasionally has these moments of, just, total brilliance that make you cry and admit that, yes, he is a genius.
So anyway, I think You Shall Know Our Velocity might have slightly more widespread appeal than Genius did. It has a little bit more of a plot at least, it's not openly just Dave talking about his life. He keeps the extremely personal first-person technique though, and you get the feeling that a lot of the stuff he's writing about is again coming straight from his own life. The main characters are two best friends, Will and Hand, who are trying to come to terms with the recent death of their other best friend, Jack. Will, THE main character, the one telling the story, also has a lot of money he doesn't know what to do with. He has the idea that getting rid of all the money, giving it away to strangers, will have some kind of cleansing effect - get rid of the misplaced guilt he feels for Jack's death, make him understand things better.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strange 16 Sep 2004
By Jamo
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an odd sort of book. It switches between being a story about 2 friends' adventures as they travel remote parts of the world to a psychoanalysis of the main character, Will. It is the latter that at times lets the book down, the bizaree workings of his mind taking up huge chunks of the narration.
The relationship between Will and his companion Hand is explored and is a strong point of the book.
Overall it's a good effort though, and I'd certainly recommend it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't get on with this book
Let me start by saying, that I absolutely love one of Dave Egger's other books, 'A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius' so I was really looking forward to reading this... Read more
Published on 9 May 2008 by Ms. J. Elliott
4.0 out of 5 stars Good fun.
I found the book to be an enjoyable read. These two men are essentially products of an era where there has been no real conflict or revolution in the world, at least not the world... Read more
Published on 5 Feb 2008 by Mr. W. D. Black
3.0 out of 5 stars Money to give away
Will, burdened with a large inheritance, sets off round the world with his friend Hand with the aim of giving it away. Read more
Published on 13 Aug 2007 by Benjamin
4.0 out of 5 stars Sad yet funny, with shades of the beats.
I finished this book very quickly. It was an easy read and I was spurred on to the end. It is about two young men struggling to cope with their emotions surrounding the death of a... Read more
Published on 16 May 2007 by Bethany Williams
1.0 out of 5 stars utter tosh!
This particular piece was unfortunately chosen by our newly formed book club, I have no idea what other reviewers are talking about?...with the exception of messrs z. folkmanis. Read more
Published on 21 July 2006 by Robin Stevenson
1.0 out of 5 stars never been so bored in my life
it's a book where very little happens very slowly. A psychoanalyst would expect to be paid some kind of money to listen to something so tedious as this - why not just write... Read more
Published on 28 Nov 2005 by Mr. Z. Folkmanis
5.0 out of 5 stars an american with a passport
So few Americans travel well that they're easy game for po-faced Europeans. In truth, few 'sophisticated' Europeans could hope to communicate the joys behind this book. Read more
Published on 26 Dec 2004 by 2cleverbyhalf
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth travelling with
You Shall Know Our Velocity was one of my more literary holiday reads and it's a bit of a road trip by genre: Will's dragging his friend around the world getting rid of a large... Read more
Published on 28 Sep 2004 by Stephen Newton
4.0 out of 5 stars Full Throttle
For all my attempts at the classics I know I'm a neophile at heart. I don't know why but the sight of a new new book will always instil that thrill in a way an old new book, or... Read more
Published on 20 May 2004 by John Self
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