Going through a bit of a novel reading spree at the moment. Dozens of non-fiction books on Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Middle East are piled by my bed and in stacks a foot and a half high on top of the bookcase in my office. But all I really want is a good yarn. In any case, the best novelists often bring a deeper insight to their subject than non-fiction writers.
Dave Eggers is one of those writers. What is the What remains the best book I have read on Sudan – and the best book set in Africa (the continent, not the country). His genius is on display again in his latest novel, A Hologram for the King.
I’m a long way behind the reviews, so I won’t bother you with a long description of its plot or a discussion of its main theme – the outsourcing of America. But my favourite part of the book is his description of an expat party in Saudi, where he precisely nails my own unease at this sort of lifestyle.
The people were older than he had ever seen behaving this way. Old people, people his own age, in their underwear. Old people with the pills, throwing the pills in their mouths and washing them down with giant bottle of homemade liquor. Something pent up had been unleashed.
Like going away to university, they have arrived in a foreign country with few responsibilities. It’s all fancy dress and snogging, like a freshers week party. That’s something no-one on the hostile environment training courses ever prepared me for. Grim.