Many years ago my brother Steve and my mother and I drove around Lake Ontario. I cannot recall why we were driving around Lake Ontario, and why in that particular combination: I cannot trace the impulse to an occasion nor a destination. But we did it. One of the things we did to keep ourselves occupied—it’s a big lake, and so a long drive—was a game we invented, a game I wrote about 20 years ago:
The challenge was for one of us to name a person of some renown, and for the others to concoct a course through their social network that would allow them to have a telephone call taken by this person. For example, I said “Bill Clinton.” Steve responded by naming his friend Dave, an editor for the CBC Morning News in Halifax, who worked with Henry Champ, Washington Bureau Chief for CBC Newsworld who, in turn, would probably know someone who could get him to Clinton. Not the strongest case, I agree, but you get the idea.
I love this sort of connection. Not for the standard-issue “networking” possibilities, at least not entirely, but rather for the simple delight of exploring the latticeworks that connect us all.
In that spirit, here is my connection to Dave Eggers:
In the spring of 2005 I took a leap and booked a flight to Copenhagen to attend my first reboot conference. At the conference’s opening drinks at Admiral Gjeddes Gaard I met Jyri Engeström over a beer. A few days later, I heard Jyri speak, which I summarized here as:
Jyri Engeström’s talk, titled Blind Men’s Baseball, where he talked about bringing the kind of presence tools we have on the web into mobile devices to add a sort of “peripheral vision” to the mobile experience.
Jyri went on to co-found Jaiku, which afforded a lot of that “peripheral vision” in a real mobile application, and I was intrigued enough to become a user and a developer, and to keep in touch with Jyri from time to time.
Many years later—Jaiku got folded into Google and Jyri went on to all manner of other interesting things—Jyri became partners in life and work with Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr, and also one-of-many-interesting-pursuits.
Dave and I go way back. We worked together circa 1996-8, at Salon.com, one of the very first online media publishers, which published, and still publishes, thinky articles on society and culture. They also host thoughtful online conversations and civil discourse. Again, it was an amazing time to be online.
Now I’m on the board of McSweeneys, the publishing company that Dave also founded. It publishes books and magazines, old media. So Dave and I have invested a lot of our energy into making places and spaces for writers doing creative work, finding an audience and getting paid. But these are fraught times for writers. The writers in Hollywood are on strike, AI is taking their jobs, teachers are saying the high school essay is dead. You’re here too and you’ve seen it—there’s a lot of dread to go around. Think we’re reactionary luddites? I don’t think so. Techno-optimists turned tech skeptics, maybe. I think we’ve all become a lot more wary since our salad days.
In any case, there’s a lot of these values and thinking and ideation in this podcast. It is a special episode because Dave and I are old friends, and share a lot of the same hopes for the humans. So give it a listen!
But this really isn’t a post about how I could get Dave Eggers on the phone—could I get Dave Eggers on the phone?—but rather a post about how I bought Dave Eggers’ newest book, The Eyes and The Impossible, this morning from The Bookmark.
I bought the book because Catarina recommended it, because I loved the book’s trailer narrated by Ethan Hawke, and because almost everything I’ve ever read or watched that comes from the mind of Dave Eggers has delighted me.
I just finished reading myself the first chapter, aloud, and I am delighted:
I turn I turn I turn before I lie to sleep and I rise before the Sun.
I sleep inside and sleep outside and have slept in the hollow of a thousand-year-old tree. When I sleep I need warmth I need quiet I need freedom from sound. When I sleep I dream of mothers and clouds clouds are messengers of God-and I dream of pupusas for I love pupusas and eat them with gusto.
I am a dog called Johannes and I have seen you. I have seen you in this park, my home. If you have come to this park, my vast green and windblown park by the sea, I have seen you. I have seen everyone who has been here, the walkers and runners and bikers and horse-riders and the Bison-seekers and the picnickers and the archers in their cloaks. When you have come here you have come to my home, where I am the Eyes.
The woodbound copy at The Bookmark is sold out (you can order another, though), but the hardbound is still in stock, and I second the recommendation.