You Shall Know Our Velocity

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Overview

In his first novel, Dave Eggers has written a moving and hilarious tale of two friends who fly around the world trying to give away a lot of money and free themselves from a profound loss.It reminds us once again what an important, necessary talent Dave Eggers is.

Author Biography: Dave Eggers lives in San Francisco, California.

The book has an unorthodox design. There are no endplates, no title pages, and the text starts on the ...

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You Shall Know Our Velocity

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Overview

In his first novel, Dave Eggers has written a moving and hilarious tale of two friends who fly around the world trying to give away a lot of money and free themselves from a profound loss.It reminds us once again what an important, necessary talent Dave Eggers is.

Author Biography: Dave Eggers lives in San Francisco, California.

The book has an unorthodox design. There are no endplates, no title pages, and the text starts on the front cover. It has no dustjacket, and the plain cardboard covers are bound by black cloth, with the title embossed on the spine. The cover line reads, in all caps: "Everything within takes place after Jack died and before my Mom and I drowned in a burning ferry in the cool--tannin-tinted Guaviare River, in East-central Colombia with forty-two locals we hadn't yet met." The endpapers are red and contain the copyright page, various thank yous and a dedication to Eggers' sister Beth, who died last year.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781440764219
  • Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
  • Publication date: 3/7/2011

Meet the Author

Dave Eggers lives in San Francisco, California.
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Read an Excerpt

EVERYTHING WITHIN TAKS PLACE AFTER JACK DIED AND BEFORE MY MOM AND I DROWNED IN A BURNING FERRY IN THE COOL TANNIN-TINTED GUAVIARE RIVER, IN EAST-CENTRAL COLOMBIA, WITH FORTY-TWO LOCALS WE HADN'T YET MET. IT WAS A CLEAR AND EYEBLUE DAY, THAT DAY, AS WAS THE FIRST DAY OF THIS STORY, A FEW YEARS AGO IN JANUARY, ON CHICAGO'S NORTH SIDE, IN THE OPULENT SHADOW OF WRIGLEY AND WITH THE WIND COMING LOW AND SEARCHING OFF THE JAGGED HALF-FROZEN LAKE. I WAS INSIDE, VERY WARM, WALKING FROM DOOR TO DOOR.

I was talking to Hand, one of my two best friends, the one still alive, and we were planning to leave. At this point there were good days, good weeks, when we pretended that it was acceptable that Jack had lived at all, that his life had been, in its truncated way, complete. This wasn't one of those days. I was pacing and Hand knew I was pacing and knew what it meant. I paced like this when figuring or planning, and rolled my knuckles, and snapped my fingers softly and without rhythm, and walked from the western edge of the apartment, where I would lock and unlock the front door, and then east, to the back deck's glass sliding door, which I opened quickly, thrust my head through and shut again. Hand could hear the quiet roar of the door moving back and forth on its rail, but said nothing. The air was arctic and it was Friday afternoon and I was home, in the new blue flannel pajama pants I wore most days then, indoors or out. A stupid and nervous bird the color of feces fluttered to the feeder over the deck and ate the ugly mixed seeds I'd put in there for no reason and lately regretted--these birds would die in days and I didn't want to watch their flight or demise. This building warmeditself without regularity or equitable distribution to its corners, and my apartment, on the rear left upper edge, got its heat rarely and in bursts. Jack was twenty-six and died five months before and now Hand and I would leave for a while. I had my ass beaten two weeks ago by three shadows in a storage unit in Oconomowoc--it had nothing to do with Jack or anything else, really, or maybe it did, maybe it was distantly Jack's fault and immediately Hand's--and we had to leave for a while. I had scabs on my face and back and a rough pear-shaped bump on the crown of my head and I had this money that had to be disseminated and so Hand and I would leave. My head was a condemned church with a ceiling of bats but I swung from this dark mood to euphoria when I thought about leaving.

"When?" said Hand.

"A week from now," I said.

"The seventeenth?"

"Right."

"This seventeenth."

"Right."

"Jesus."

"Can you get the week off?"

"I don't know," Hand asked. "Can I ask a dumb question?"

"What?"

"Why not this summer?"

"Because."

"Or next fall?"

"Come on."

"What?"

"I'll pay for it if we go now," I said. I knew Hand would say yes because for five months we hadn't said no. There had been some difficult requests but we hadn't said no.

"And you owe me," I added.

"What? For--Oh Jesus. Fine."

"Good."

"For how long again?" he asked.

"How long can you get off?" I asked.

"Probably a week." I knew he would do it. Hand would have quit his job if they refused the time off. He had a decent arrangement now, as a security supervisor on a casino on the river under the Arch, but for a while, in high school, he'd been the Number Two- ranked swimmer in all of Wisconsin, and he expected that kind of glory going forward. He'd never focused again like he'd focused then, and now he was a dabbler, with some experience as a recording engineer, some in car alarms, some in weather futures (true, long story), some as a carpenter--we'd actually worked on one summer gig together, a porch on an enormous gingerbread-looking place on Lake Geneva--but he left any job where he wasn't learning or when his dignity, however defined, was anywhere compromised.

"Then a week," I said. "We'll do what we can in a week."

I lived in Chicago, Hand in St. Louis, though we were both from Milwaukee, or just outside. We were born there, three months apart, and our dads bowled together, before mine was gone the first time, before his started playing drums, wearing suspenders and leather vests. We didn't talk about our fathers.

We called the airlines that offered single-fare tickets with unlimited travel. The tickets allowed unrestricted flying as long as you kept going one direction, once around the globe without turning back. You usually have twelve months to complete the circuit, but we'd have to do it in a week. They cost $3,000 each, a number out of the reach of people like us under normal circumstances, in rational times, but I had gotten some money about a year before, in a windfall kind of way, and had been both grateful and constantly confused by it. And now I would get rid of it, or most of it, and believed purging would provide clarity, and that doing this in a quick global flurry would make it . . . I really don't know why we combined these two ideas. We just, blindly and without self-doubt, figured we would go all the way around, once, in a week, starting in Chicago, ideally hitting Saskatchewan first, then Mongolia, then Yemen, then Rwanda, then Madagascar--maybe those last two switched around--then Siberia, then Greenland, then home. Easy.

"This'll be good," said Hand.

"It will," I said.

"How much are we getting rid of again?"

"I think $38,000."

"Is that including the tickets?"

"Yeah."

"So we're actually giving away what--$32,000?"

"Something like that," I said.

"How are you going to bring it? Cash?"

"Traveler's checks."

"And then we give it to who?" he asked.

"I don't know yet. I think it'll be obvious when we get there."

And if we kept traveling west, we'd lose very little time. We could easily make our way around the world in a week, with maybe five stops along the way--the hours elapsed would in part be voided by the crossing, always westerly, of time zones. From Saskatchewan we'd get to Mongolia, we figured, having lost only two or three hours riding the Arctic Circle. We would oppose the turning of the planet and refuse the setting of the sun.

The itinerary changed on each of the four days we had to decide, on the phone, with me consulting a laminated pocket atlas and Hand in St. Louis with his globe, a huge thing, the size of a beach ball, which spun wildly between poles--he'd bumped into it one late night and it was no longer smooth--and which dominated his living room.

So first:

Chicago to Saskatchewan to Mongolia

Mongolia to Qatar

Qatar to Yemen

Yemen to Madagascar

Madagascar to Rwanda

Rwanda to San Francisco to Chicago.

We liked that one. But it was too warm, too concentrated in one latitude. The next one, with adjustments:

Chicago to San Francisco to Mongolia

Mongolia to Yemen

Yemen to Madagascar

Madagascar to Greenland

Greenland to Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan to San Francisco to Chicago.

We'd solved the warmth problem, but went too far the other way. We needed better contrast, more back and forth, more up and down, while always heading west. The third itinerary:

Chicago to San Francisco to Micronesia

Micronesia to Mongolia

Mongolia to Madagascar

Madagascar to Rwanda

Rwanda to Greenland

Greenland to San Francisco to Chicago.

That one had everything. Political intrigue, a climactical buffet. We began, separately at home, plugging the locations into various websites listing fares and timetables.

Hand called.

"What?"

"We're fucked."

There was something wrong with the timetable. He'd entered in the destinations, but every time we left San Francisco--we had to stop there en route from Chicago--we'd end up in Mongolia not a few hours later, but two damned days later.

"How can that be?"

"I figured it out," Hand said.

"What?"

"You know what it is?"

"What?"

"I'm going to lay it on you."

"Tell me."

"Ready?"

"Fuck yourself."

"The international date line," he said.

"No."

"Yes."

"The international date line!"

"Yes."

"Fuck the international date line!" I said.

"Can we do that?" he asked.

"I don't know. How does it work again?"

"Well, New Zealand is the farthest point, time-wise, in the world. They see the new year first. Which means that if we're traveling west from Chicago, we're doing pretty well in terms of saving time all the way until New Zealand. But once we get past there, we're a day ahead. A full day ahead."

"We lose a whole day."

"If we leave Wednesday, we land Friday."

"So it won't help to be going west," I said.

"Not much. Not at all, really."

We called an airline representative. She thought we were assholes. If we wanted to get around the world in a week, she said, we'd be in the air seventy percent of the trip. Even if we followed the sun, we'd still be hemorrhaging hours all over the Pacific.

"We have to go east," said Hand.

"Maybe we go east, then west," I said.

"We can't. We have to keep going the same direction to get the fare."

The next itinerary:

Chicago to New York to Greenland

Greenland to Rwanda

Rwanda to Madagascar

Madagascar to Mongolia

Mongolia to Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan to New York to Chicago.

"But we're losing time each flight," I said. "Each flight is basically double the time this way."

"Hell. You're right."

"We have to drop the destinations down to four maybe. Or make them shorter."

"This blows," Hand said. "We have a whole week and we have to drop Mongolia. These planes are too fucking slow. When did planes get so slow?"

Next:

Chicago to New York to Greenland

Greenland to Rwanda

Rwanda to Madagascar

Madagascar to Qatar

Qatar to Yemen

Yemen to Los Angeles to Chicago.

But there were no flights from Greenland to Rwanda. Or Rwanda to Madagascar.

"Bullshit," I said.

"I know, I know."

Or Madagascar to Qatar. There was one from Saskatchewan to New York. And one from Mongolia to Saskatchewan. But nothing from Greenland to Rwanda. We were bent. Why wouldn't there be a flight from Greenland to Rwanda? Almost everything, even Rwanda to Madagascar, had to go through someplace like Paris or London. We didn't want to be in Paris or London. Or Beijing, which is where they wanted us to stop en route to Mongolia.

"This is like the Middle Ages," Hand said.

"I had no idea," I said.

We had to scale back again. We started over.

"Let's just go," said Hand. "We get the big ticket and then make it up as we go. We don't have to plan it all out."

"Good," I said.

But no. The airline insisted on knowing the exact airports we'd visit along the way. We didn't need to provide precise dates or times, but they needed the destinations so they could calculate the taxes.

"The taxes?" Hand said.

"I didn't know they could do that."

We decided to skip the pre-planned round-the-world tickets. We'd start in Mongolia and just go from there. We'd land and then just hit the airports when we were ready to leave. Or better yet, we'd land, and while still at the airport, get our tickets out. The new plan felt good--it was more in keeping with the overall idea, anyway--that of unmitigated movement, of serving any or maybe every impulse. Once in Mongolia, we'd see what was flying out and go. It couldn't cost all that much more, we figured. How much could it cost? We had no idea. All I needed was to get around the world in a week, make it through Mongolia at some point, and be in Mexico City in eight days, for a wedding--Jeff, a friend of ours from high school, was marrying Lupe, who only Jeff called Guad, whose family lived in Cuernavaca. Huge wedding, I was told.

"You were invited?" Hand said.

"You weren't?" I said.

I don't know why Hand wasn't invited. Could I bring him? Probably not. We'd done that once before, at another friend's wedding, in Columbus--we figured maybe they just didn't have his address, so I brought him--and only once we arrived did we realize why Hand hadn't been given the nod in the first place. Hand was blond and tall and dark-eyed, I guess you'd say doe-eyed, was well-liked by women and for better and worse had a ceaseless curiosity that swung its net liberally over everything from science to even the most sensitive and trusting women. So he'd slept with too many people, including the bride's sister Sheila, soft-shouldered and romantic--and it hadn't ended well, and Hand, being Hand, had forgotten it all, the connection between Sheila and the bride and so it was awkward, that wedding, so clumsy and wrong. It was my fault, then and as it always is, in some uncanny way, every time Hand's combination of lust--for women, for arcana and conspiracy and space travel--and plain raw animal stupidity brings us, inevitably, in the path of harm and ruin.

But did we really have to get around the world? We decided that we didn't. We'd see what we could see in six, six and a half days, and then go home. We didn't know yet where exactly to start--we were leaning toward Qatar--but Hand knew where to end.

"Cairo," he said, sending the second syllable through a thin long tunnel of breath, the o full of melancholy and hope.

"Why?"

"We finish the trip on the top of Cheops," he said.

"They still let you climb the pyramids?"

"We bribe a guard early in the morning or at sunset. I read about this. Everyone in Giza is bribable."

"Okay," I said. "That's it then. We end at the pyramids."

"Oh man," Hand said, almost in a whisper. "I always wanted to go to Cheops. I can't believe it."

I called Cathy Wambat, my mom's high school friend, a travel agent with a name that spawned a hundred crank calls. They'd been raised in Colorado, she and my mom, in Fort Collins, which I'd never seen but always pictured with the actual fort, hewn from area lumber and still walling the pioneers from the natives. Now Cathy Wambat lived in Hawaii, where apparently all the travel agents who matter now lived. After hearing the plan, she thought we were assholes too, though in a cheerful way, and made the reservations--two one-way flights from Cairo, Hand's continuing from New York to St. Louis and mine to Mexico City.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 55 )
Rating Distribution

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(31)

4 Star

(15)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 56 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2003

    This is not a negative review

    Well it appears that Mr. Eggers has written a novel. Some critics did their jobs and criticized the book. That hurt Dave's feelings and he got a little defensive. It is understandable that an ego that large would also be so fragile. I read his 'Work of Genius' and found it to be so. Aside from what some people call 'literary fireworks' (a phrase I do not understand because fireworks are amazing and a drawing of a stapler somehow is not), I found the narration to be innovative and of course rather amusing. I expected a little more from Eggers for his first real novel. The story is rather creative, but he needs to tighten his language. Dave tends to ramble a bit from time to time, eating up 20-30 pages. For some people, this is why they love Dave. For me, it makes me wish that Dave would write the book that we all know he is capable of writing. I have faith in you Dave Eggers, you are one of the few who actually know something about writing and you already have many imitators who are not nearly at your level. Please write the novel I know you can write. I am tired of reading James Frey.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2008

    I love this book

    This novel is a story for the sake of a story. It is an amazingly fluid read for a story so broken apart and interrupted. I suppose it mirrors reality that way, though. Our days pass regardless of the rambling, wayward notions of our minds. Eggers always delivers that sort of steam of consciousness narration without becoming unreadable. Overall, this is a beautiful story to read, not because Will and Hand are great but because they are human, and restless, and doing something.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2007

    Give me the money!

    I don't think I have ever read a book with a more pointless plot. The entire time I was reading this book, I kept thinking to myself, 'If you can't stand the fact that you have $80,000.00--give it to me! I've got about $70,000.00 worth of school loan debt I need to pay off!' I can think of 1000 charitable organizations which could've benefitted from that money rather than wasting it on a juvenile 5 day travelling spree giving it away to foreign prostitutes and homeless beggars.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2004

    Pretty Good.

    This is what it is. I think it's a well written book that maybe (maybe) tries a little too hard to be clever. It's better than some books out there and worse than others.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2011

    Awesome book!

    This was one of the best books I have read in years. Sadly, I have had it sitting in a shelf for years since a friend gave it to me. The title and cover are so boring (can we so bad marketing). When I finally did pick it up, though, I couldn't put it down and am now excited to find another book by Dave Eggers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Very Much an Eggers Work

    I have read a few of Eggers other works and though I enjoyed A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and What is the What? a bit more, this is still a novel worth reading. The characters, like all people, are flawed but likable. Although the goal of the trip is to go to give away money to less fortunate areas of the world, often times Will and Hand are focused primarily on themselves, each other's flaws and mistakes, and the past even as they try to focus on helping those they see as in need now. Although this can get a bit dense and frustrating to the reader especially when the main characters actions seem irrational or ill-planned, it is nice to have a novel where the character's thoughts and actions are so human that it is refreshing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2004

    An Eyecatcher!

    I loved the idea of these two men flying around the world unloading their riches! When I saw the book started on the cover I knew it was one for the collection! Read it you'll love it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2003

    Worst book I've ever read!

    I don't know who these folks are who actually liked this book, but I was bored from page 2, woke up for a minute when Hand began writing and then got really bored. The only reason I finished this book was so I could lead a Book Club discussion on it. I don't know why I bothered. None of the other 8 people in our Book Club finished it. Most did not make it past page 20. I found absolutely nothing remotely humorous in this entire book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2003

    Hot stuff coming through...

    A great read. Dave's (because ability to portray the inner thoughts and rapid pace of said thoughs of his characters is absurdly realistic. His style of mental dialogue between himself and other characters is awesome. I often find myself imagining conversations like that in my life...you know..just people telling what they feel deep down. Dave's books make me laugh out loud regularly. I honestly have never read another book which has done that to me. Way to go Mr. Eggers! Dave, e-mail me if you are coming to Boston!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2003

    You Shall Know Our Appreciation

    Dave Eggers¿ short story ¿After I Was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned¿ says far more about his stance on writing than his best-selling memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. The narrator of the short story is a dog, Steven. Steven, like many dogs, possesses an exuberance and zest for life. What he likes more than anything is to run with his friends through the forest and bound over a twelve-foot drainpipe. In his words: ¿Hoooooooo! I¿m a fast fast dog. Hooooooooooooo!¿ As he and his friends jump, a number of sardonic squirrels criticize the dogs in their ¿small jittery voices,¿ laughing when they fall and injure themselves. The dogs do not appreciate the squirrels¿ commentary, and many of the dogs attack them, but Steven simply wishes they would run and jump too. Eggers speeds through the literary world with the same velocity, and the leaps he makes have caused many critics to scurry for a response. Initially, upon the release of A.H.B.W.O.S.G., many critics surmised that he would not last. Michiko Kakutani, of the New York Times, says Eggers¿ ¿shaggy dog narrative¿ consists of ¿self-indulgent yapping.¿ After the publication of his latest book, You Shall Know Our Velocity, many of those same critics are now stating, with their large tails between their legs, that ¿a writer is among us.¿ With two novels behind him, his own publishing company (McSweeney¿s), and non-profit organization to help under-privileged youth in San Francisco, Eggers has clearly made it to the other side of the drainpipe, let jittery-voiced critics say what they will. Eggers¿ new novel, You Shall Know Our Velocity, is a picaresque tale of Will and Hand and their travel around the third world in an attempt to give away money Will earned by allowing his silhouette to be used as a light bulb logo. The trip is motivated by the death of their mutual friend Jack. Will, the narrator, is overwhelmed with grief, and in an attempt to elude the weight of that grief, must keep moving and maintaining a velocity that keeps him one step ahead of his pain. The novel¿s bipolar narrator brings the story to summits of humor and gorges of grief, giving the reader a farrago of sentiment without being overly sentimental. At one moment Will and Hand try surreptitiously to tape money to the side of a donkey for the owner to find¿the money is accompanied by a note that reads ¿Here I am. Rock you like a hurricane¿¿only to later meditate on their guilt at having the money in the first place. Later they plan to bury money and place a treasure map in the way of an unsuspecting child. In each similar case¿and the novel is structured around them¿they second-guess their actions until their circumspection nearly renders them inactive. However, each time, they maintain their velocity. Dave Eggers¿ exuberant and alacritous writing death-defyingly maintains its velocity as it soars above the heads of readers and critics alike. This shaggy dog¿s new novel yaps in the face of critics as he turns his head and urges us to run with him. After reading his new novel, and seeing all of this underdog¿s new tricks, one thing is clear: Dave Eggers is the leader of the pack.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2002

    Big Disappointment

    Hated this book. I liked his first one a lot, and this showed flashes of originality, but mostly it was incredibly sophomoric and pointless. Eggers has gotten so incredibly pretentious! I couldn't care less about these two guys - their adventures were fraternity-like, their giving away of the money was inept.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2003

    Oh, Our Silly Spectrum...

    Very impressive and inspirational, as cheesy as that is, but it's true. Eggers had something to say that was worth hearing yet again, and it actually felt good. As good a conclusion as ever!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2002

    only available at independent bookstores

    An excellent book from a highly accaimed and popular young writer...I love his perspective and tough/vulnerable, funny/weepy insightful style of writing. If you liked the autobiographical Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius you'll love this one too.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2002

    Marvellous

    Dave Eggers is a marvellous young author; insightful and original, he is a breath of fresh air, an author that all should read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2002

    Liked it a lot!

    Well-written and original. I couldn't put it down. Eggers is great. Just wish the book was easier to buy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2009

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