Quick Reviews, № 3

Alaska_cc0_edit
Alaska, where Dave Eggers sets his latest novel.

More-or-less quick takes on Dave Eggers’ most recent novel, Heroes of the Frontier, as well as on Amy Sherman-Palladino’s latest creation, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

BOOK | Dave Eggers, Heroes of the Frontier (2016)

Less a novel of ideas than his fantastic The Circle (2013), and less avantgarde than his 2014 Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? (quite the mouthful!), Dave Eggers’ most recent novel is nonetheless too good to be skipped. Detailing the eventful journey of a woman and her two kids through Alaska, Heroes of the Frontier is at once a straightforward road-trip tale and a surprising meditation on an array of contemporary social issues. Eggers, of course, doesn’t simply buy into the old frontier myth—but, as the title indicates, he cannot totally rid himself of its lingering influence, either. And so it is certainly not by coincidence that his protagonist chooses Alaska as the place to escape from her life. “But,” she asks herself right at the beginning, “where was the Alaska of magic and clarity?” And: “where were the heroes?” In many ways, Heroes of the Frontier is a quest for these things. Yet it is also a reflection on the disillusion with their absence, or elusiveness. Whether the protagonist finally finds what she seeks in the Alaskan wilderness, and whether, in Eggers’ vision, there are still heroes in America nowadays, I won’t give away by going for an interpretation. Anyway, this one-of-a-kind journey, told with equal amounts of humor and compassion, has so much “magic and clarity” in its prose that it’s very well worth being discovered as a whole. (4.5/5)

TV | The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Season 1 (2017)

One of the results of Amazon’s experiment in user-based democracy, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel turned out a complete hit with critics and audiences alike, culminating in, among other things, two Golden Globe Awards. And I am only half-surprised: Mrs. Maisel is a witty, colorful, and, above all, topical show that deals with contemporary issues through a period lens, while (most of the time) managing not to smother its audience with its political agenda. As heavy in dialogue and as seamlessly shifting between drama and comedy as creator-director Amy Sherman-Palladino’s classic, Gilmore Girls, Mrs. Maisel is, however, not quite as mindlessly pleasing—but, on the other hand, significantly more political. At the center of it all is, obviously, the somewhat endearingly naive, yet strong and increasingly self-reliant protagonist (played by Rachel Brosnahan, who really deserves her Globe). Placed at her side are a host of characters of varying importance, many of which sadly do not amount to more than mere caricatures. In general, the show’s immense demands on its audience’s suspension of disbelief has got to be one if its biggest drawbacks—again following in the tradition of Gilmore Girls. Additionally, for my personal taste, there was too generous and too obvious use of (sorry) too annoying period music. Plus, the plot was sometimes frustratingly foreseeable. Hence, I am “half-surprised” about the almost unanimously good response to Mrs. Maisel. Marvelous? Not quite. Enjoyable and refreshing? Certainly. (3.5/5)


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  1. […] It’s not a secret that I consider Dave Eggers to be one of the most interesting and versatile authors writing today. And although The Monk of Mokha is in many ways the essence of Eggers – a genuinely novel story, captivatingly and humanely told, with a strong interest in the social and individual impact of global developments and national policies –, it left me more puzzled than his previous books did. Here – in our real world – is an apparently successful San-Francisco-based entrepreneur, selling highly lauded specialty coffee at prohibitive prices. Eggers decides to pen his story. The book that comes out is: an exciting read, a celebration of coffee culture, an exploration of the drink’s historical roots—and a massive marketing device for the enterprise founded by its protagonist. Eggers doesn’t only tell the story of an individual with a mission. He provides a business with an origin story of an almost mythical quality. Should a writer make himself so openly complicit with the (financial) aims of its subject? Is it acceptable if someone like Eggers writes a 300-page advertisement for a coffee company, and if that company in turn advertises Eggers’s book on their website? Does it really help matters that both pledge to set aside proceedings from the book to aid small-scale coffee farmers? – Eggers’s new book is as morally confusing as the time and culture it emerges from. But for once, I’m not sure this is entirely a good thing. (3/5) […]

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