There's something disconcerting about the title page to his new book-- What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng-- with the subtitle prominently displayed. Right below, the punchline: by Dave Eggers.
The subtitle harks back not just to The Autobiography of Malcolm X, but to the autobiography of Frederick Douglass-- the shocking importance of which, in its day, was that ex-slave Douglass was speaking for HIMSELF. Remember the theme of the work-- that what Douglass most embraced was the ability and need to read and write. This revolutionary act gave him equality with anyone. Douglass proved by his writings, his speeches, and his life that he was the equal of any white person.
Empowerment was the message of these two powerful autobiographies. The much-hyped 2006 version gives the opposite message: that the paternalistic rich white man in the person of B'wana Dave Eggers is back in control. "I'm here to help." (The White Man's Burden.) B'wana Dave carts the embodiment of "Victim" from interview to interview as if they were ventriloquist and puppet, while the liberal print media applauds.
Dave Eggers is the darling of boozhie (street slang) lit critics because this ultimate boozhie is an example to them that it's hip to be rich and corporate. Everything he does has an air of unreality about it. He's crafted to be a savior of generosity and benevolence; his image washed in a special glow. The insanity of the man is that he rigorously protects this image from everything resembling a real human being; from hints of anger and flaws; criticism against him consistently steamrolled. Insanity-- or shrewd marketing.