A HOLOGRAM FOR A KING

DAVE EGGERS

AKA: Waiting for the King

Alan Clay is a 54-year-old self-employed consultant in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia where he’s come to try to redeem his fortune. Day after day Alan is driven, usually late, to a large white tent in the desert — part of the King Abdullah Economic City, or KAEC (as in “cake”) — where three young colleagues sit around with laptops waiting to show a holographic teleconferencing system to King Abdullah, on behalf of Reliant, an American company that is “the largest I.T. supplier in the world.” Day after day, the king fails to arrive. No one can say when the King will arrive to see their presentation.  The Americans lie around, fret about the absence of Wi-Fi and kill time in the emptiness. The are adrift on a sea of sand. Desperate for something to happen, Alan lances a cyst on his neck with a crude knife — and later a needle — just to feel the blood flow. As days flow into weeks of waiting, Alan reflects on his life both past and present.

The writing is beautiful: “A plume of smoke unzipped the blue sky beyond the mountains,” a “pair of headlights appeared as a blue sunrise beyond the ridge’s ragged silhouette”, “People think you’re able to help them and usually you can’t, and so it becomes a process of choosing the one or two people you try hardest not to disappoint.” “We’ve become a nation of indoor cats, he’d said. A nation of doubters, worriers, overthinkers. Thank God these weren’t the kind of Americans who settled this country. They were a different breed! They crossed the country in wagons with wooden wheels! People croaked along the way, and they barely stopped. Back then, you buried your dead and kept moving.”

An interesting read.

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