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You Shall Know Our Velocity Paperback – 1 Apr 2004

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You Shall Know Our Velocity + A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius + What is the What
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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 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 297,702 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

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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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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Walton TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 5 Jan. 2009
Format: Paperback
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joey VanB on 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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Format: Paperback
Immature, ignorant North American men attempt to deal with unresolved feelings of guilt and purposelessness with a road trip to "poor" and "exotic" countries, where they dispense large amounts of cash more of less at random.

This makes them sound solipsistic and boorish, no? But of course that doesn't mean that a novel describing their venture needs to be so.

And Eggers is a good writer. His style is immediate, witty and fresh. The trouble is that he fails to introduce any distance between the first person narrator and himself as the author. So the narrator's self-obsession is given full rein without any authorial undercutting - Eggards clearly thinks the same way as his lead character - the people he encounters on his travels have little life of their own and instead function simply to illuminate the narrator's internal process and the wider, more political, context that lead us to see the dispensing of financial largesse as the solution (rather than the problem) is addressed only as far as the narrator allows. The result is unsatisfying. I wanted a conclusion that was bigger than the small mind of the lead character, that raised and explored questions that he had not thought of. Instead, I was left thinking, "Oh, grow up!"
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By incuspo on 30 Jan. 2004
Format: Hardcover
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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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bethany Williams on 16 May 2007
Format: Paperback
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 friend. They try to make sense of them through travel. One in particular is very lonely and tries to reach out to people by giving away money.Some people have said the characters are immature but I don't think they are; Eggers is just very honest about human emotion and confusion. Parts of the book are very sad but there is also humour to be found in the details of the travel plans gone wrong etc. This book reminds me of the beats - particularly On the Road by Jack Kerouac. It also reminds me of Generation X by Douglas Coupland. The travel goes hand in hand with the emotions of the characters - the one is a reason and motive for the other. This is what makes the book flow so well. If you like your books plot driven then this probably won't be your thing. However, if you like similar authors as mentioned earlier, and Eggers other works, then you will probably like this. I would also say this book is probably more aimed at twenty somethings as they may be able to relate to it more.
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