A Hologram for the King (2016) – A Dave Eggers Novel to Film Adaptation that is Watchable but Makes One Mostly Curious About How Much Was Lost in Translation

Tom Hanks stars in this adaptation of one of my favorite contemporary / intelligently countercultural writers work – Dave Eggers – based on the novel of the same name ‘A Hologram for the King’ (which I haven’t read). Hanks stars in another adaptation of Eggers’ as well, ‘The Circle’ (2017) based on the novel of that name about a tech giant comparable to Facebook or Google. Perhaps Hanks has a thing for Eggers’s work as well. People have been trying to adapt Dave Eggers’s work since his debut creative memoir ‘A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius’ was optioned but failed to become a movie.

Having read that one, as well as ‘You Shall Know Our Velocity’ and the short story collection ‘How We Are Hungry’ I became a huge fan of Eggers, but oddly haven’t read much of his other work, partially because ‘A Heartbreaking Work’ was so formational for me, reading it at the end of high school. I shied away from experiencing too much of that influence, closehand, without consideration.

Without knowing how similar his other novels are in style, I can say adapting works that are in the style of ‘A Heartbreaking Work’ poses challenges, because much of the thrust of the narrative is in the flow and energy of streams of language, light captured in effervescence and uninterrupted consciousness, so that film relying on visual narrative is at a disadvantage. One does not see what the author wants one to see as easily… as if one cannot make one experience the cosmic significance of playing frisbee on the beach with one’s little brother while contemplating death, connection, the pulsing heart of stars, if one simply depicts a frisbee being flung, however perfectly the lithe hand flips,

We’re best at the long high throws. Like when you take four or five steps and rip it— It’s almost like a shotput approach, the steps, four or five quick, one over the other, kind of sideways-like—and then you slash away with that fucker, it’s such a violent act, throwing that white thing, you’re first cradling it to your breast and then you whip that fucker as hard as you possibly can while keeping it level, keeping it straight, but otherwise with everything you can send with it you whip that fucker like it had blades on it and you wanted it to cut straight through that paperblue sky like a screen, rip through it and have it be blood and black space beyond. Oh I’m not going to fix you, John, or any of you people. I tried about a million times to fix you, but it was so wrong for me to want to save you because I only wanted to eat you to make me stronger, I only wanted to devour all of you, I was a cancer— Oh but I do this for you. Don’t you see I do this for you? I have done this all for you. I pretend that I do not but I do. I eat you to save you. I drink you to make you new. I gorge myself on all you, and I stand, dripping, with fists, with heaving shoulders— I will look stupid, I will crawl, drenched in blood and shit, I will— Oh look at those birds, on their stiff tiny legs and— 

– Dave Eggers, ‘A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius’

In the philosophy of Mimetics, creating enthusiasm for an image, is not inherent in the displaying of a beautiful image. And inuring oneself to beauty is also a counterargument of a deluge of beautiful images. It makes one think there is a battle being played out between beauty and its own argument.

Eggers also penned the screenplay to the adaptation of the children’s book classic ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ which I’ve been meaning to see. Hopefully, soon I will.

I admire Eggers both for his work, and for what he does with his time. The profits from his bestselling work were put into the founding of a literary magazine, ‘The Believer’, as well as a crazy brilliant program for kids to teach them the value of telling their stories, out of the 826 centers.

In ‘A Hologram for the King’ I feel like there is a narrative struggling to come across, about illness, the spectre of disease attacking a body, a hologram as a representation of the ethereal/spiritual communicating across distance to connect but also to displace, how time is invisible and as real as the soul, how energy is harnessed for good out of that which conspires against us, and also how great beauty arises from systems that align to destroy our very life. How possibility reaches out from the dark and cold and danger and dares us to shine impossibly.

How a father may take you into the deep of the woods, with little time and hope to return before freezing, and teach you a lesson, by a shared desperation for what might be done with what little you have, with the warmth in your own frail body and heart.

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