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Even when we foUow Eggers on one of many tangential plot lines—a lengthy account of his encounter with a gang of Hispanic teenagers on the beach, a stiU longer account of his interview for MTV's The Real World— we're amused and curious about what's going to happen. Eggers is always on the lookout for that moment when his story becomes more about the pleasure of telling than the pleasure of reading, and it's hard to walk away from such a considerate raconteur—even when you're not exactly sure where his story is headed. Like David Foster WaUace (who offers high praise for the memoir on its back cover), Eggers is a writer who delights in breaking the rules, writing a not-entirely-autobiographical account of a not-entirely-believable situation that is, strangely enough, the truth. In the same way that his story defies imagination, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius defies the reader to point out what could be lost without harming the whole. In the end, every scene seems essential to the wUd ride that has thus far been Eggers' life. (PJ) The Blood Latitudes by William Harrison MacMurray & Beck, 2000, 280 pp., $25 Will Hobbs, the protagonist in WiUiam Harrison's new novel, The Blood Latitudes, is a retired journaUst living in London in a house that was bought with his deceased wife's money. The novel begins on the day when Hobbs receives a phone call from his son, Buck, informing him that Buck and his wife, Key, and their son, WiUie, wiU be stopping in London for a whUe. Buck, who is also a journaUst, has just been given his father's former assignment in Africa, and he says he'U only be staying in London "until personnel gets aU its correspondents straight." In fact, Buck and his famUy have only been in London a short time before Will finds himself falling in love with his own son's wife. To further complicate things, the bloody conflict in Rwanda erupts, necessitating Buck's immediate departure for Africa. Shortly after he arrives there, he disappears, leaving Will and Key the task of trying to find him. Harrison has written of Africa before, in such novels as Africana, Burton and Speke and Three Hunters, and readers who enjoyed those books wiU love this one. No one—not even Graham Greene or Joseph Conrad, two writers with whom Harrison has been compared—has managed to write aboutAfrica with greater narrative texture. After WUl and Key land at the airport in Nairobi, they catch a taxi, and the ride into town becomes "an act of random terrorism: men along the roadsides shaking their fists, the wails of sirens and the bleating ofgoats, air distiUed Uke gunsmoke with the acrid odors of clove, burning rubber, and decay." Once downtown, where mobs control the streets, they pass a street lamp beneath which "the carcass of an animal, perhaps a donkey, burned with a blue flame." When Will leaves Key and sets off alone into Rwanda itself, hoping to bring back his son or at least learn Buck's fate, he encounters horrors that even Mr. Kurtz might not have imagined. The Missouri Review · 179 Harrison does not shrink from depicting the bloodbath that occurred in Rwanda. A good deal of the killing there involved children, and Harrison's scenes in which chUdren are either victims or perpetrators—or both at once—are surely among the most nightmarish ever written. But whereas a journey into chaos brought out the worst in Conrad's Mr. Kurtz, Hobbs finds, in the midst of all this bloodshed, qualities of decency within himself that he did not know existed. His willingness to risk his own life to save a group of abandoned orphans from a murderous Hutu "theologian" who calls himself Papa Ngiza (Father Darkness) is an act of heroism in a place where few heroes can be found. Perhaps the most satisfying element of The Blood Latitudes, however, is the treatment of the relationship between WiU and Key. One senses early on that Key and WiU belong together, that she would have been better off with him than she would...


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pp. 179-180
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