Though they range from a doomed Irish setter's tales of running and jumping ('After I Was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned') to a bitterly comic meditation on suicide and friendship ('Climbing to the Window, Pretending to Dance'), the stories share a haunting and haunted sense of mortality. Though full of bursts of levity and humor, the book is deeply informed by the troubled times in which it was written.
This collection includes many never-before-published stories, and all previously-published stories have been significantly revised.
'The Only Meaning of the Oil-Wet Water', originally published in Zoetrope: All Story, was recently named a finalist for the National Magazine Award for Fiction, and is currently included in the Best American Magazine Writing 2004.
'Up the Mountain Coming Down Slowly' was awarded an honorable mention in the 2003 Best American Short Stories and The Observer (London) called it a masterpiece - the narration is magisterial, without a false note. It may well be the last great twentieth-century short story.
In these short stories, Dave Eggers is able to bounce all over the place as a narrator and still maintain a distinctive, enjoyable style. A lot of the tales seem like simple narrative experiments, but others really hold their own. I particularly enjoyed 'The Only Meaning of the Oil Wet Water' which involved two love-confused surfers, and 'Quiet' which reaches a level of awkwarndess I never thought possible.
-Mike Shea, Atomic Books Blog