“This man was a vortex—all rationality was devoured within him,” Dave Eggers.
The Parade by Dave Eggers
Genre: Fiction, fable
Published by Knopf, 2019
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Reviewed by Indiana
Re-readability: I’m not sure I’ll return to this one.
In this sparse novel, a road is paved with unknown intentions in a country that’s been torn apart by civil war. There is much that goes unnamed in The Parade, including the setting and the character names. Instead, they’re given numbers for names.
Four, who acts mostly as the narrator, is a by-the-books character. He’s been tasked with paving a road through the south and north parts of this unspecified country leading its capital. Once it’s done, he is told there will be a parade.
“The president, known for political theater, had planned the parade to begin the moment the road was completed,” writes Eggers.
To complete the job, Four is forced to work with a man he calls Nine. He functions as the inverse of Four, disobeying or ignoring nearly every rule given to them by their employer. One of those rules is to not talk with the locals unless it is absolutely necessary and do not eat local food. At every chance he gets, Nine goes into these broken down towns and gets to know the locals, eating with them and often sleeping with them.
Four only ever seems to be focused on the road ahead and finishing the job on schedule— Nine actually calls him the “Clock”—while Nine is focused on the journey and on how the road will impact the locals, who are mostly excited about the road. While neither of their characters are completely likeable, it’s clear that they have things to learn from each other.
When Nine becomes quite ill, Four’s compassion and sense of humanity is tested. He stops working at his usual dogged pace to help his co-worker, breaking plenty of rules in the process and getting to know the locals fairly well.
But we’re left wondering at the destination of this road, both in terms of character development and the actual roadway.
“He had acquired nothing and lost nothing,” writes Eggers of Four. Although The Parade had a traumatic ending, which was reserved for the very last page, it felt flat. The Parade is a timely fable. With all the chaos going on in the world, there’s no doubt that it echoes pieces of reality. However, it was devoid of Eggers’ bizarre humor, which I found disappointing. Now, perhaps more than ever, we need weird thinkers like him. We need them to not be blinded by their anger about what’s going on in the world but to channel it into doing what they do best: create.