10 December 2008

What is the What

I have just finished reading What is the What by Dave Eggers, one of the most important books I have read in a long time. It is the novelized version of the story of Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee from Sudan. I told Heather she needed to read it and she said she doesn't like to read sad books. I replied that while it is often sad, it is also at times funny and awe-inspiring. Besides, the reason I like reading books like this is because they are sad, because life can be sad. I do not want to take my life for granted. I want to be reminded how fortunate I am, for no other reason than the circumstances of my birth, and I never want to forget the unimaginable suffering that others live with every day.

As Americans, it is easy for us to forget the oppression and suffering that billions of others face every day. And when we are reminded, it is easy to ignore. What is the What ends with a comment on this:

Whatever I do, however I find a way to live, I will tell these stories. I have spoken to every person I have encountered these last difficult days, and every person who has entered this club during these awful morning hours, because to do anything else would be something less than human. I speak to these people, and I speak to you because I cannot help it. It gives me strength, almost unbelievable strength, to know that you are there. I covet your eyes, your ears, the collapsible space between us. How blessed are we to have each other? I am alive and you are alive so we must fill the air with our words. I will fill today, tomorrow, every day until I am taken back to God. I will tell stories to people who will listen and to people who don't want to listen, to people who seek me out and to those who run. All the while I will know that you are there. How can I pretend that you do not exist? It would be almost as impossible as you pretending that I do not exist.

Don't pretend this doesn't exist. Take a month, read this book, and acknowledge.


Clint K. said...

Glad you read it, Chris. I read it last year and blogged about it here:


Chris said...

Thanks, Clint. I remember your blog about it; thanks for providing the link to review it again.