Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Unrealistically Depicted Human All Too Human

"Kathy Zeitoun said she considers Eggers' book a faithful and accurate portrait of the couple's shared ordeal during Katrina. But she believes she must publicly shed light on her ex-husband's violent side, which she says has emerged in recent years. 'I'm not going to be quiet about it anymore because being quiet puts him in a position to do it again,' she said."
Well, this is very sad. Abdulrahman Zeitoun, the protagonist of Dave Eggers' account of Hurricane Katrina and the atrocious government response that followed, is in jail for assaulting his wife. Zeitoun is beautifully written, and gives an invaluable look at a city in the wake of natural disaster, but it bothered me very much in its depiction of its eponymous hero as a flawless human being. [via]

9 Comments / Post A Comment

You know what bothered me the most? Those poor fucking dogs.

Mr. B (#10,093)

"Beautifully written"? Whatever the book's strengths as reportage, Eggers's prose, here and in everything else of his I've looked at, is little more than affected boilerplate. I can't get over the suspicion that his whole career is some sort of put-on.

aubergines (#216,449)

@Mr. B Agreed. The story is very moving, but the writing sucks.

hershmire (#233,671)

@Mr. B Yeah, I just tried to read AHWSG and couldn't get past the 40-page preface. Just not good enough prose to hold my attention.

Buck Turgidson (#236,742)

"…gives an invaluable look at a city in the wake of natural disaster…" only it was NOT a natural disaster. Man made disaster. Please see http://thebiguneasy.com/ . And not only that, but the "new" pumps for the levee to prevent a repeat are defective.

Toby Bryce@twitter (#10,953)

@Mr. B @aubergines completely disagree. Eggers' writing is strong IMO and I would go so far as to say (as long as we're being polemical) that far from being a put-on he is he most important and consistently interesting contemporary American writer.

@hershmire except that I can't speak to AHWSG, which never appealed to me. (I even liked VELOCITY.)

@DaveBry can you elaborate on what in text of Zeitoun depiction bothered you so much? You may have rightfully smelled a rat, as it turns out, but I didn't get that at all.

Dave Bry (#422)

Well Eggers took this person, a human being who he obviously sympathized with (and for understandable reasons) and used his story to tell a bigger story. And this is good. But the way he chose to illustrate this person undermined the power of the story, so much of which of which came from the fact that this actually happened to a living and breathing human being. Because everything we learned about Zeitoun was wonderful and glowing. He seemed like a perfect person, so unrelentingly heroic and positive. The worst things we learned about him were that he was stubborn (which, this is portrayed as the lovable flaw that results from his bravery and steadfastness) and one incident from the past, when he left his firstborn baby in a car for 30 seconds—but this was presented as a small mistake (it was a small mistake; could happen to anyone in that crazy-minded situation) that was really just the lovable result of his overwhelming love and care for his wife. Because he was such a perfect hero. Drawing him this way, heroizing him so much, made him seem much less like a real living breathing human being for obvious reasons: real people are not perfect. It would have been so much better if Eggers had chilled out on some of the worshipping, and included more negative stuff, to round out this real person. I understand that might have been difficult, because the book was written, had to be written, with such intense cooperation from Zeitoun and his family. And, also: all this horrible stuff happened to this person, who did probably seem to be so nice and good and brave! I can see how a reporter might be extra sympathetic. But still: it hurt what would have been a stronger book, otherwise, I think. And again, I really liked the book. Hahaha. Sorry. That might be a little more elaboration than you wanted. (Than anyone would ever want, maybe.) I have drank too much coffee this morning.

Brian Hurley (#235,000)

@Dave Bry I agree. Eggers started with the premise that Zeitoun was an absolute hero. If he'd been more honest about how flawed people are, then Zeitoun's crimes wouldn't have to damage all the good that the book has done.


billy jorj (#245,271)

Well Eggers took this person, a human being who he obviously sympathized with (and for understandable reasons) and used his story to tell a bigger story. And this is good.
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