Book Reviews,  Business,  FICTION,  Middle East

A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers *** (of 4)

In this rewrite of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, aptly named Alan Clay, a former salesman of Schwinn bicycles finds himself in Saudi Arabia trying to sell the King a new technology for holographic communications.  Clay has a fragile exterior: he doesn’t really understand holograms or computers, his ex-wife is annoying, his financial debts are insurmountable, his college-aged daughter is directionless, he hasn’t been in a substantive relationship with a woman, or even a male colleague, for nearly a decade, and he has a lump on his neck he is certain is cancerous.  Now he is in sprinting as best he can in the Arabian desert of a globalized economy trying to make one last sale he hopes will alleviate all his worries.  Only Saudi Arabia is not what his guidebook led him to expect.  Women flirt, men drink, and cities in the sand sometimes don’t live up to expectations.  Neither does the book, I’m afraid.  As strong a writer as Eggers is, it’s hard not to feel as despondent as Alan Clay.  His demise seems preordained and who wants to spend forever reading about that?