If a student had listened to a few minutes of author Dave Eggers’ reading at a Morse College Master’s Tea Thursday, she might have believed he had banned bicycle shorts from all but professional riders and set out with his wife to get rid of genocide.
Speaking to a packed house of over 100 audience members, Eggers — who has written books including the bestselling “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” — kept listeners laughing as he described his life, his writing and his current community service endeavors.
Morse Master Frank Keil called Eggers one of the most exciting writers to come along in decades. But Keil was quick to note that Eggers’ work extends beyond just writing books, including such activities as running an independent publishing house out of Iceland and operating a summer camp for young writers in the San Francisco Bay area.
Eggers revealed his passion for activism in a reading from one of his current projects. As a possible solution for global warming, Eggers suggested turning every building into a massive solar and wind power plant, calling the idea “the Age of Wind and Sun.” On the more humorous side, he proposed that the influence of special interest groups could be reduced by deporting all of the lobbyists to Greenland.
“On a roll, we decided to get rid of genocide,” Eggers read. “We eliminated all armies and created a special force of 20,000 troops under the auspices of the U.N. that could respond to any crisis in 36 hours.”
Eggers said this would be preferable to the current situation, in which “800,000 [are] dead in Rwanda in a month and the U.N. sends 12 Belgians to stop the fighting.”
In addition to writing, Eggers founded 826 Valencia, a San Francisco writing lab for city youth. Keil said this reflects the writer’s altruism.
“[Eggers] has been quite successful, but he gives away most of what he makes,” Keil said.
The writing lab began as a small operation in which Eggers leased a storefront and put a sign on the street announcing free tutoring. Having grown significantly since its modest beginnings, 826 Valencia now has over 500 volunteers actively associated with the organization. It has expanded its offerings, helping to produce student publications and teaching classes such as “Digital Photography” and “Writing for Your Pet.”
Eggers recently became involved in politics.
“I have a pretty nuanced political view,” Eggers said. “I have always understood both sides. My brother worked for [President George W. Bush ’68] in Texas and then in Washington. It is possible to be a compassionate conservative; my brother is, and Bush was one in Texas. But then Bush lost his mind.”
After speaking at Yale, Eggers traveled to New York City, where he spoke at an event meant to raise money for a political action committee aimed at defeating Bush in the upcoming election.
Students rushed to ask Eggers to sign copies of his books after the tea.
“I came to the talk because I really enjoyed the book. But more importantly, I wanted to get my stapler signed,” Anthony Garvan ’06 said, hinting at an inside joke from one of Eggers’ books.
Eggers is currently writing a series of fake reference books for children. The first piece, “Giraffes? Giraffes!” has already been published by McSweeney’s, Eggers’ independent publishing house.
“It answers all of the important questions,” Eggers said. “Like, do giraffes still control everything we see in mirrors?”