I’m not a huge fan of Dave Eggars although I’ve only read his first book, ‘A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius’. I did quite enjoy his screenplay for ‘Where the Wild Things Are’, although – of course – the book is far superior.

However, I’ve warmed to him considerably since reading an interview in last Sunday’s ‘Observer’. In particular, I really like his passion for the power of reading and of writing which has led him to establish places (6 across the US) where children can come after school for help with homework and to learn to write stories. They are ‘screen-free zones’ run by volunteers.

The stipulation for the lease for the first ‘825 Valencia’ was that they would have to sell something as it was in a shop building. So the children raise funds by selling their own inventions: pirates can purchase peg-leg oil, emergency treasure burial sand, and tins of mermaid repellant/bait’. In another centre, superheroes can browse for supplies and in a 3rd. Bigfoot Research goes on.

‘Eggars picks up a small, flat piece of wood. “This is a kitten plank,” he says. He picks up a smaller, flatter piece of wood. “This is a hamster plank.” Finally, he picks up what looks like a school ruler. “And this is a parrot plank.”’

Wonderful.

I’m certainly going to read his new book, ‘Zeitoun’ which discusses the ’emotional fallout from Hurriane Katrina and the war on terror’.



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