Thursday, January 13, 2011

Literary Bite: Zeitoun

First things first – it’s pronounced ZAY-toon. My grandma got it for me for Christmas this year. I’d seen it around, and you probably have too – and Zeitoun is good! I’ve read just one other Dave Eggers book (What is the What) and didn’t adore it, but he is the editor of McSweeny’s (the best website ever, aside from Eat Run Read of course), so I gave him another chance.

The inside jacket of Zeitoun told me,
“Imagine Charles Dickens his sentimentality in check but his journalistic eyes wide open, roaming New Orleans after it was buried by Hurricane Katrina. He would find anger and pathos. A dark fable, perhaps. His villains would be evil and incompetent, even without Heckuva-Job-Brownie. In the end, though, he would not be able to constrain himself; his outrage might overwhelm the tale.” (NYT Review)

Well that’s fitting (in light of my recent reading) now isn’t it? Though as I read, I didn’t really see Dickensian similarities – I thought Zeitoun and Bleak House were complete opposites, but both really good!

Zeitoun was quite the page-turner (I turned all 359 of them in 3 days). It’s the story of a Syrian immigrant, Zeitoun, married to a Louisianan (who converted to Islam). Their family lives in New Orleans and runs a contractor business. When the storm comes, Zeitoun stays in the city while his wife and children leave…and you’ll just have to read the book to learn the rest.
This is the most I’ve read about Hurricane Katrina. I was just starting college when it happened, so I didn’t really follow all the details. This book opens up so many questions – some I’m sure are unanswerable - but some things that happened are just mind-blowing. Eggers is definitely critical of many things that happened during and after the storm, and is clearly outraged on behalf of Zeitoun. (It’s a true story about real people.)

I highly recommend this book – read it and let me know what you think!