How We Are Hungry

How We Are Hungry

by Dave Eggers


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Dave Eggers presents his first collection of short stories. The characters are roaming, searching, and often struggling, and revelations do not always arrive on schedule. Precisely crafted and boldly experimental, How We Are Hungry simultaneously embraces and expands the boundaries of the short story.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400095568
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/11/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 723,130
Product dimensions: 5.21(w) x 8.01(h) x 0.58(d)

About the Author

Dave Eggers is the author of six previous books, including Zeitoun, winner of the American Book Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. What Is the What was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award and won France’s Prix Medici. That book, about Valentino Achak Deng, a survivor of the civil war in Sudan, gave birth to the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, which operates a secondary school in South Sudan run by Mr. Deng. 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 an oral history series, Voice of Witness. 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, New York, Ann Arbor, Seattle, Boston and Washington, DC, and similar centers now exist in London (the Ministry of Stories), Dublin (Fighting Words) and in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Melbourne, and many other cities. A native of Chicago, Eggers now lives in Northern California with his wife and two children.

Read an Excerpt

Another I'd gone to Egypt, as a courier, easy. I gave the package to a guy at the airport and was finished and free by noon on the first day. It was a bad time to be in Cairo, unwise at that juncture, with the poor state of relations between our nation and the entire region, but I did it anyway because, at that point in my life, if there was a window at all, however small and discouraged, I would- I'd been having trouble thinking, finishing things. Words like anxiety and depression seemed apt then, in that I wasn't interested in the things I was usually interested in, and couldn't finish a glass of milk without deliberation. But I didn't stop to ruminate or wallow. Diagnosis would have made it all less interesting. I'd been a married man, twice; I'd been a man who turned forty among friends; I'd had pets, jobs in the foreign service, people working for me. Years after all that, somewhere in May, I found myself in Egypt, against the advice of my government, with mild diarrhea and alone. There was a new heat there, dry and suffocating and unfamiliar to me. I'd lived only in humid places-Cincinnati, Hartford-where the people I knew felt sorry for each other. Surviving in the Egyptian heat was invigorating, though-living under that sun made me lighter and stronger, made of platinum. I'd dropped ten pounds in a few days but I felt good. This was a few weeks after some terrorists had slaughtered seventy tourists at Luxor, and everyone was jittery. And I'd just been in New York, on the top of the Empire State Building, a few days after a guy opened fire there, killing one. I wasn't consciously following trouble around, but then what the hell was I doing- On a Tuesday I was by the pyramids, walking, loving the dust, squinting; I'd just lost my second pair of sunglasses. The hawkers who work the Gizeh plateau-really some of the least charming charmers the world owns-were trying to sell me anything-little scarab toys, Cheops keychains, plastic sandals. They spoke twenty words of a dozen languages, and tried me with German, Spanish, Italian, English. I said no, feigned muteness, got in the habit of just saying "Finland!" to them all, sure that they didn't know any Finnish, until a man offered me a horseback ride, in American English, hooking his r's obscenely. They really were clever bastards. I'd already gotten a brief and expensive camel ride, which was worthless, and though I'd never ridden a horse past an amble and hadn't really wanted to, I followed him on foot. "Through the desert," he said, leading me past a silver tourist bus, Swiss seniors unloading. I followed him. "We go get horse. We ride to the Red Pyramid," he said. I followed. "You have your horse yourself," he said, answering my last unspoken question. I knew the Red Pyramid had just been reopened, or was about to be reopened, though I didn't know why they called it Red. I wanted to ride on a horse through the desert. I wanted to see if this man-slight, with brown teeth, wide-set eyes, a cop mustache-would try to kill me. There were plenty of Egyptians who would love to kill me, I was sure, and I was ready to engage in any way with someone who wanted me dead. I was alone and reckless and both passive and quick to fury. It was a beautiful time, everything electric and hideous. In Egypt I was noticed, I was yelled at by some and embraced by others. One day I was given free sugarcane juice by a well-dressed man who lived under a bridge and wanted to teach at an American boarding school. I couldn't help him but he was sure I could, talking to me loudly by the juice bar, outside, in crowded Cairo, while others eyed me vacantly. I was a star, a heathen, an enemy, a nothing. At Gizeh I walked with the horse man-he had no smell-away from the tourists and buses, and down from the plateau. The hard sand went soft. We passed an ancient man in a cave below ground, and I was told to pay him baksheesh, a tip, because he was a "famous man" and the keeper of that cave. I gave him a dollar. The first man and I continued walking, for about a mile, and where the desert met a road he introduced me to his partner, a fat man, bursting from a threadbare shirt, who had two horses, both black, Arabian. They helped me on the smaller of the two. The animal was alive everywhere, restless, its hair marshy with sweat. I didn't tell them that I'd only ridden once before, and that time at a roadside Fourth of July fair, walking around a track, half-drunk. I was trying to find dinosaur bones in Arizona-I thought, briefly, that I was an archeologist. I still don't know why I was made the way I am. "Hesham," the horse man said, and jerked his thumb at his sternum. I nodded. I got on the small black horse and we left the fat man. Hesham and I trotted about five miles on the rural road, newly paved, passing farms while cabs shot past us, honking. Always the honking in Cairo!-the drivers steering with the left hand to be better able, with their right, to communicate every nuance of their feelings. My saddle was simple and small; I spent a good minute trying to figure out how it was attached to the horse and how I would be attached to it. Under it I could feel every bone and muscle and band of cartilage that bound the horse together. I stroked its neck apologetically and it shook my hand away. It loathed me. When we turned from the road and crossed a narrow gorge, the desert spread out in front of us without end. I felt like a bastard for ever doubting that it was so grand and acquiescent. It looked like a shame to step on it, it was shaped so carefully, layer upon layer of velveteen. On the horse's first steps onto sand, Hesham said: "Yes?" And I nodded. With that he whipped my horse and bellowed to his own and we were at a gallop, in the Sahara, heading up a dune the size of a four-story building. I'd never galloped before. I had no idea how to ride. My horse was flying; he seemed to like it. The last horse I'd been on had bitten me constantly. This one just thrust his head rhythmically at the future. I slid to the back of the saddle and pulled myself forward again. I balled the reins into my hand and leaned down, getting closer to the animal's body. But something or everything was wrong. I was being struck from every angle. It was the most violence I'd experienced in years. Hesham, seeing me struggle, slowed down. I was thankful. The world went quiet. I regained my grip on the reins, repositioned myself on the saddle, and leaned forward. I patted the horse's neck and narrowly missed his teeth, which were now attempting to eat my fingers. I felt ready again. I would know more now. The start had been chaos because it was so sudden. "Yes?" Hesham said. I nodded. He struck my horse savagely and we bolted. We made it over the first dune and the view was a conqueror's, oceans upon oceans, a million beveled edges. We flew down the dune and up the next. The horse didn't slow and the saddle was punishing my spine. Holy Christ it hurt. I wasn't in sync with the horse-I tried but neither the fat man nor the odorless one I was following had given me any direction and my spine was striking the saddle with enormous force, with terrible rhythm, and soon the pain was searing, molten. I was again and again being dropped on my ass, on marble, from a hundred feet- I could barely speak enough to tell Hesham to slow down, to stop, to rest my spine. Something was being irrevocably damaged, I was sure. But there was no way to rest. I couldn't get a word out. I struggled for air, I tried to ride higher in the saddle, but couldn't stop because I had to show Hesham I was sturdy, unshrinking. He was glancing back at me periodically and when he did I squinted and smiled in the hardest way I could. Soon he slowed again. We trotted for a few minutes. The pounding on my spine stopped. The pain subsided. I was so thankful. I took in as much air as I could. "Yes?" Hesham said. I nodded. And he struck my horse again and we galloped. The pain resumed, with more volume, subtleties, tendrils reaching into new and unknown places-shooting through to my clavicles, armpits, neck. I was intrigued by the newness of the torment and would have studied it, enjoyed it in a way, but its sudden stabbing prevented me from drawing the necessary distance from it. I needed to prove to this Egyptian lunatic that I could ride with him. That we were equal out here, that I could keep up and devour it, the agony. That I could be punished, that I expected the punishment and could withstand it, however long he wanted to give it to me. We could ride together across the Sahara even though we hated each other for a hundred good and untenable reasons. I was part of a continuum that went back thousands of years, nothing having changed. It almost made me laugh, so I rode as anyone might have ridden at any point in history, meaning that it was only him and me and the sand and a horse and saddle-I had nothing with me at all, was wearing a white button-down shirt and shorts and sandals-and Jesus, however disgusting we were, however wrong was the space between us, we were really soaring. And I was watching. As the horse's hooves scratched the sand and the horse breathed and I breathed, as the mane whipped over my hands and the sand sprayed over my legs, spitting on my bare ankles, I was watching how the man moved with the horse. Somewhere, after twenty minutes more of continuous pounding, with the horse at full gallop, I learned. I had been letting the horse strike me, was trying to sit above the saddle, hoping my distance from it would diminish the impact each time, but there were ways to eliminate the pain altogether. I learned. I moved with the horse and when I finally started moving with that damned horse, nodding forward, in agreement, in collusion, the pain was gone. I was riding that stupid and divine horse, attached to it, low, my head immersed in its mane, and I- Hesham noticed I no longer struggled and we rode faster. We rode with the sun overhead. There was a wind in our faces, and I felt a part of every army the world had ever burdened. I loved the man I followed in the way you love only those you've wanted to kill. And when I was most full of love the pyramid emerged from the sand, a less perfect peak among the dunes. At the Red Pyramid we went up its side, lifting ourselves onto each step, each great square stone almost five feet tall. At the entrance, fifty feet up, the man gestured me into a small black entranceway into the chamber at the pyramid's center. I followed him down and in, the passage steep, narrow, dark, dank, too small for anyone larger than ourselves. There was a rope that could be used to guide us to the bottom. I held it and descended; there were no steps. The smell was chalky and the air thick and difficult to draw. Ahead of me the man held a torch which carved a jagged light from the darkness. At the bottom of the decline, we stood, turned into another hallway, now level, and soon ducked through a doorway and were inside a stone box. It was a completely unadorned room, with high ceilings and perfect geometry. Hesham waved his arms around the room with great proud flourishes. "Home of king," Hesham said, bringing his torch to one side of the room and revealing a long stone box, the tomb. The chamber was otherwise empty, devoid of any markings or jewels or masonry. Chambers like these had been raided endlessly over the centuries, and now all that remained was bare walls, smooth, with no sign of- The air inside was heaving with dust and I felt we would die if we stayed long. Would he try to kill me? Rob me? We were alone. For no reason at all I was without worry. We stared at each other in the room, neither of us truly impressed by the box we were in, though we both momentarily pretended at awe. I was disappointed, though I knew not to expect much inside these rooms. I didn't know how elaborate the space once was, but there was no evidence that it was ever anything but this, this sandy cube, and the fact of it saddened me. The exterior so magnificent, the core so crude. Hesham held the torch near his face and looked at me, though in the weak light I'm not sure he saw me at all. He sighed loudly. His face moved through emotions: arrogance, boredom, annoyance. He was obligated to stay as long as I wanted to stay. I didn't want to stay at all, but I liked seeing him suffer, if even a small amount. We climbed the steps again toward the crooked window of light where the pyramid drank the sky. It was dusk. Once outside and on the ground again, the man said, "There is another." I asked him its name. He said it was called the Bent Pyramid. We were on our horses again. "Yes?" he asked. I nodded and he struck my horse with his open hand. I followed him though he was soon only a black wraith against a silver sky. Our horses were angry and breathed in hydraulic bursts. I realized now that Hesham was not doing this for whatever money I would give him. He hadn't bothered to negotiate for any of the trips after the Red Pyramid. What we were doing was something else, and each of us knew it. I was now sure he wouldn't kill me, and knew he had no plan, none more than I had. An hour later we were at the Bent Pyramid, this one larger but less secure, and the light was gone. We climbed to its entrance and descended and once again found ourselves inside a sacred chamber, a room that had held a queen or pharaoh, though again the room was bare. The man and I stared at each other, breathing in the hard thick air, without any compassion for each other or anything.

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How We Are Hungry 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 35 reviews.
SamanthaCopping More than 1 year ago
Travelers and wanderers of all sorts will find much here that resonates. This is the sort of short story collection that you find yourself going back to, finding new insight each time. It's infinitely quotable as well. What a marvelous book.
whenthewarcame More than 1 year ago
this collection of short stories is breathtakingly well written. several of the pieces can be held up as an example of a nearly perfect classic short fiction story.
goldiebear on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I admit, many of the stories in this book were a bit strage... (per usual for Eggers). His stories often times don't stay with you, but the characters do. By far, my favorite story in this collection was "Up the Mountain Coming Down Slowly" (also the longest story in the collection). Maybe it's because I am an outdoor girl at heart and I love mountain climbing stuff, but this was just an incredable story! Now I can't wait to read What is the What.
fodroy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a great collection of stories from one of my favorite writers. Worth buying it for the last story ("After I Was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned") alone.
twomoredays on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A lot of the reviews I'd read of this book have mentioned that they thought Eggers was trying to hard to be literary and that most of the stories were just too self-conscious. And most of them, in their trite way, claimed that the book left them hungry. However, I have to enthusiastically disagree.I loved this book. Not all the stories are as engaging, and I'm not sure about the extremely short one or two page stories, but I Iove the spiritual-esque feeling that Eggers captures in most of the stories.Also, the final story in the book, "After I was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned," is just amazing. I'd actually read in before in Speaking to Angels, a compilation edited by Nick Hornby, but after reading it a second time, I was completely floored. That story alone makes this book completely worth buying this book.I can't wait for Egger next work, and I hope he continues on his self-conscious, too literary trend, because I like the direction his work is going, even if the critics don't.
lalalibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked most of the stories in here. The story from the perspective of Steven the dog was the best, though. hehe!
figre on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have trouble putting my finger on what I find wrong with this collection. I generally enjoy Eggers. (Note, I consider You Shall Know Our Velocity a really great book.) But then I have trouble enjoying any of the McSweeney collections. So, what is wrong with this collection? In general, I could get no involvement in the longer pieces. A lot seems to happen in them, but they are just pieces of nothing. Of interest, the short pieces (and I mean short ¿ one- two-page write ups) are the stars of the collection. Quick shots that generally left me stunned. So why couldn¿t the long pieces do that? I can¿t answer that. All I can say is that, even when they were at their ¿best¿, they still weren¿t good enough to make me think there might be something there.
goose114 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have not read many short story compilations and this was my first Dave Eggers piece to read.Some of the stories, typically the longer ones, were engaging with interesting characters. The stories that I particularly enjoyed were: ¿Another¿ and ¿Up the Mountain Coming Down Slowly.¿ However, most of the stories seemed to lack a crux. I was not particularly moved or attached to any of the characters or stories. Overall it was a good read, but nothing that I would consider especially remarkable.
flydodofly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
even if you are not an eggers fan this is an excellent read.
gbill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A collection of short stories from Dave Eggers, one of my favorite authors, one of which ("The Only Meaning of the Oil-Wet Water") continues on with the characters from his novel, "You Shall Know Our Velocity". Eggers is creative and always entertaining. Collections of short stories are always a little hard to review because one's response will vary across the stories, and this is no exception; I think it's particularly true in this case because Eggers pushes the envelope in content and style. I really enjoyed "Climbing to the Window, Pretending to Dance", "Quiet", and "Up the Mountain Coming Down Slowly". "Up the Mountain" is about a group of American tourists with various backgrounds and skeletons in the closet hiking up Mt. Kilimanjaro and is the most touted; I suppose this is because it's the most "complete" of the stories. "Quiet" tells of the difficulty of friendship turning romantic for two friends who meet in Scotland. "Climbing to the Window" is about coping with a cousin's suicide attempt. Eggers has both a lightness and a deepness about him and is not afraid to try new forms. He is not always for everybody because the lightness can come across sometimes as silly, the deepness trite, and the new forms strange. An example of the latter is the two page story "What It Means When a Crowd In a Faraway Nation Takes a Soldier Representing your own Nation, Shoots HIm, Drags Him from his Vehicle and then Mutilates him in the Dust"; whew the title is almost longer than the story. However, when he's on, he's on, and there's no denying Eggers has talent and is worth reading.Quotes:On God, from "The Only Meaning of the Oil-Wet Water":"But then why God at all? The oil-wet water was not God. It was not the least bit spiritual. It was oil-wet water, and it felt perfect when Pilar put her hand into it, and it kissed her palm again and again, would never stop kissing her palm and why wasn't that enough?"On helplessness in relationships, from "Climbing to the Window, Pretending to Dance":"Years ago he thought he could have an effect on Adam's life, but now he knows he's a spectator, a parent watching a child's sporting event, hands twisted into fists, unable to influence the outcome."On sorrow, from "Climbing...""...this is nothing, this drive - this is sorrow. It makes you want to freeze the world and shatter it with an ax."On desire, from "Quiet":"I was overcome: I coveted her and the world in that order. I kept a close eye on the side of her head, to see if she would turn her face toward mine. If that were to happen I would kiss her for a short time and then stop, and then laugh it off, pretend that we were just being dopes. I would kiss her long enough to satisfy my curiosity about kissing her but briefly enough that I could dismiss the kiss - ha ha what a riot, coiuldn't matter less.But it would always matter! I would always think of this time, of these hugs, of a kiss, should it come. I would catalog it and reference it frequently..."On the pain of knowing, from "Quiet":"Why do we pursue information that we know will never leave our heads? I was inviting a permanent, violent guest into my home. He would defecate on my bed. He would shred my clothes, light fires on the walls. I could see him walking up the driveway and I stood at the door, knowing that I'd be a fool to bring him inside. But still I opened the door."And this from "Quiet", a touch of sorrow and a great ending:"Why does it give so much comfort to be responsible for someone's sleep? We all - don't we? - want creatures sleeping in our homes while we walk about, turning off lights. I wanted this now. I touched Erin's soft head and she allowed me. She allowed me because she was tired. She seemed so profoundly tired. After Scotland I would not hear from her again.As my fingers spidered through the strands of Erin's hair, the brightness outside took my eyes from the room. The moon was striped by the blinds but I could
teafritz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love this book! Plain and simple.
rachaelster on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't know how I feel about Dave Eggers, I really don't.
tandah on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I hated this book - the writing may be excellent but the stories are ugly and largely irredeemably bleak ... and it gave me no pleasure.
cinesnail88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was excellent. After the first story, I felt the initial tentacles of dislike curling about, but after the "The Only Meaning of Oil-Wet Water," I had a lot of hope. My favorite was very easily "Quiet." It was, for me, very poignant. I can't really explain it. It have no personal connections to any of the characters, yet, that poignancy is there nonetheless.
spoonefl1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you think it's a little strange that I am recommending a book of short stories so highly, then consider who wrote these stories. For those familiar with Dave Eggers' previous work, it should come as no surprise that this book is at times outstanding, at other times mundane, a little quirky, a little anxious and above all, seemingly real. My favorite story is also the longest (and not many of them are longer than a few pages). If you expect something like A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, then you will be disappointed. This book is much more like the (completely) fictional You Shall Know Our Velocity, and even has character tie-ins to that book. Like most books of short stories, there are weak points. The story with the longest title might be the shortest in the book, and has almost nothing to do with the title. But there are a few stories here that make this a collection worth owning.
kateh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this book, the stories get better and better as the book continues. My favorite was "After I was Thrown in the River and Before I drowned", a story about a dog who races through the wood s with other dogs until he does not make a crucial jump. I loved the description of the dog as sleeping curled up inside his own skin in the interim between life and death. I also liked " Notes for a Story of a Man Who Will Not Die Alone" and "Up the Mountain Coming Down Slowly." "Your Mother and I" was the funniest,it is a father teling his child about all the amazing things that he accomplished with the mother, some of these things are quite humurous such as painting Kansas purple. What is also great about this story is the long paragraphs and the tangents that the speaker goes off on. It's like a conversation with a very funny and intersting person with a crazy imagination.
zmobie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent collection of stories by one of my favorite authors. Typical Eggers material, sounds very autobiographical even when it's about a woman traveling to Mt. Kilimanjaro or a dog running races. If you've enjoyed any other books by this talented author, I would definitely recommend this work.
annekcusack on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Be sure to read "Going Up the Mountain Coming Down Slowly."
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