Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The New Yorker: "Max at Sea" by Dave Eggers

This is an excerpt from Eggers’s new book, due out in October. It’s based on his screenplay, which is based on Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are.” I dislike it on multiple levels. It’s an excerpt. It’s doubly derivative. And although the writing is fine and fluid, the story is . . . not. Max is a kid with a wolf costume who argues with his sister, his mother, and his mother’s boyfriend. He runs out of the house, into the night and into a different world: “The air and the moon together sang a furious and wonderful song: Come with us, wolf-boy!” He finds a boat and sets sail, but instead of heading to sea he goes across the bay to the city where his father lives. But he can’t get there and ends up in the open sea after all. To pass the time, he recalls everything and everyone he knows. Eventually, he comes to an island, still wearing his wolf suit. As he makes his way on the island, he discovers animals, large beasts he doesn’t recognize. He tries to hide from them, but he overhears them talking, and learns their names: Carol, Douglas, Judith, Ira, Alexander, Bull. Carol, the leader, wants help to finish the job of destroying some nests the beasts have found. So Max volunteers and together he and Carol do the work. But it turns out they’re destroying their own nests. And the beasts turn on him. But he slows them down by telling them a story . . . declares himself king. Still, it isn’t clear that they aren’t going to eat him.

Waste of time, waste of New Yorker ink. In my opinion.

August 24, 2009: “Max at Sea” by Dave Eggers

9 comments:

Pete said...

But it's Eggers, so we're all expected to bow down before it.

Clifford Garstang said...

So it would seem. And it isn't awful for what it is, it just isn't for me.

I hear his real novel, Zeitoun, which came out in July, is quite good.

Mitzi said...

I admire that you posted an opinion that isn't favorable. It seems that so much time and effort is spent on kissing ass for the sake of kissing ass. It's okay not to like something.

My opinion, of course :)

Clifford Garstang said...

Eggers certainly doesn't need my favorable comments, and really my complaint isn't with the story so much as its appearance in TNY. Still, on this blog readers frequently disagree with me, which is wonderful, and I hope someone will chime in to defend "Max at Sea."

Anonymous said...

I agree that the story didn't seem to be New Yorker level -- maybe because it was an excerpt as you said. Like a movie, it was very visual, but it lacked a strong enough emotional tug to capture me.
Pam

F. said...

It's not a standalone story, and that takes some punch off of it, I agree. But there were good things embedded in it. The kid's longing for his dad is well done. And its pace is good. Of course, the real reason a sliver of a novelized children's story was published in The New Yorker was--I think--because it was Eggers's.

CLoMKE said...

Okay, I’ll take the bait. I liked this story. It’s not my favorite of the year, but I liked it a lot more than The New Yorker story about the Tiger roaming wild (was it in Russia around the time of WWII?) or the one about the half bull-half man in the labyrinth with the girl, or many of the other stories that have been in The New Yorker this year. I have a three-year-old and I’ve read M. Sendak’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” out loud to him probably fifty times over the past few years, and I enjoyed Eggers’ creative “fleshing out” of Sendak’s very spare children’s story. Whereas Sendak’s story was a fable with evocative pictures that fascinate little kids, Eggers’ story is written in a style for an audience in their early teens. I thought it was well written. It’s concise with a definite forward momentum to it. I felt tension reading the story even though I knew how things would come out in the end. I liked the back story of how Max despises his mother’s chinless boyfriend, and how Max misses his father since Mom and Dad divorced three years earlier. Overall, I think that it’s a nicely done early-teen story that’s especially satisfying because it tracks this classic children’s story that so many of us grew up with, and fills in the blanks in a way that is creative yet consistent with the original story

Lakin Khan said...

I'm way, way behind the time-curve here, having just read this story....but I enjoyed it. I giggled in spots. Perhaps having read "Where The Wild Things Are" a thousand times to my kids colored my reaction. The original story is rather bare and straightforward, a framework for imagination, allowing kids to hook into the story in their own way. But I rather liked the way Eggers fleshed out the story, giving it particularity, some plot, some back-story. I mean, we all would have filled out and enriched this story in our own peculiar way. I think he was rather deft in maintaining the original structure while placing it in a particular place and our current times.

Jacob Russell said...

As I said in my review... was baffled by Eggers' story. What was the point. As an excert of his screen play script... I have more sense of what he might have contributed, but the real credit for the film goes to Spike Jonze.

see my review HERE

CloMike... you have impecable taste! You hated the three best stories TNY has published his year!