What is the What?

Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times Book Review on Dave Eggers’ new book:

Eggers190After two mannered books (“You Shall Know Our Velocity” and “How We Are Hungry”) in which cleverness and literary gimmickry seemed to get the upper hand, Mr. Eggers has produced “What Is the What,” a startling act of literary ventriloquism that recounts the harrowing story of a Sudanese refugee named Valentino Achak Deng, while reminding us just how eloquently the author can write about loss and mortality and sorrow.

A devastating and humane account of one man’s survival against terrible odds, the book is flawed by an odd decision on Mr. Eggers’s part to fictionalize Mr. Deng’s story — a curious choice, especially in the wake of the uproar over James Frey’s fictionalized memoir earlier this year. But while we start out wondering what is real and what is not, it is a testament to the power of Mr. Deng’s experiences and Mr. Eggers’s ability to convey their essence in visceral terms that we gradually forget these schematics of composition.

More here.