Eggers, Paul 1953-
EGGERS, Paul 1953-
Born September 9, 1953, in St. Louis, IL; son of Ted and Jean Eggers; married Ellen Eggers (a linguist). Ethnicity: "White." Education: University of Washington, B.A. (English); Pennsylvania State University, M.A. (technical writing); University of Nebraska—Lincoln, Ph.D., 1996. Politics: Democrat. Hobbies and other interests: Former nationally ranked chess master.
Novelist, short-story writer, and educator. Peace Corps, volunteer English teacher in Malaysia, 1976-78; United Nations High Commission for Refugees, relief worker in the Philippines and Malaysia, 1979-82, Burundi, 1985-86; California State University, Chico, assistant professor of creative writing, 2000—. Previously worked as a technical writer in Seattle, WA.
Barnes & Noble Discovery Book Awards, 1999, and Maria Thomas Fiction Award, 2000, for Saviors; National Endowment for the Arts, fellowship in literature; Paterson Award for Fiction, 2003, for How the Water Feels.
Saviors (novel), Harcourt Brace (New York, NY), 1998.
How the Water Feels (short stories), Southern Methodist University Press (Dallas, TX), 2002.
Contributor of stories and articles to periodicals, including Granta, Quarterly West, Gloss, and Studies in the Humanities.
WORK IN PROGRESS:
The Africa Variation, a novel set in Burundi.
Paul Eggers is a novelist and short-story writer who draws themes and subjects from his experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer and United Nations relief worker in southeast Asia and Africa during the 1970s and 1980s.
His first novel, Saviors, centers on Reuben Gill, a U.N. aid worker who is assigned to the Bidong Island Refugee Camp in Malaysia. There he encounters filth, chaos, romance, bureaucratic absurdity, and power struggles among the various factions of workers and refugees. In Booklist, Mary Ellen Quinn felt the novel is "steeped in black humor that is reminiscent of M.A. S.H." While a Kirkus Reviews commentator found the novel "rambling and loosely organized," the reviewer nevertheless judged it "a fascinating portrait of one of the great historical dramas of our time."
Eggers's follow-up collection, How the Water Feels, offers shorter portraits of life among relief workers and refugees in southeast Asia. Included are stories about competitive chess, interaction among the inhabitants and administrators of the camp, the aftermath of a suicide, and the strain of relief work on marriage. In Publishers Weekly, a reviewer found the collection "uneven," marred at times by "meandering, directionless dialogue and heavy-handed exposition," but nevertheless offering "intriguing material" and some "darkly humorous portraits." A reviewer for Kirkus Reviews thought that "character and story are lively and vivid throughout," and concluded, "Relief work might suffer from Kafka-class bureaucracy, but at least it gave us these stories."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 1998, Mary Ellen Quinn, review of Saviors, p. 198.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 1998, review of Saviors, pp. 1477-1478; September 1, 2002, review of How the Water Feels, p. 1251.
Library Journal, August, 1998, Faye A. Chadwell, review of Saviors, p. 130.
Publishers Weekly, October 19, 1998, review of Saviors, p. 53; September 23, 2002, review of How the Water Feels, p. 49.
Inside Chico,http://www.csuchico.edu/pub/inside/ (April 4, 2002), Taran March, "Novelist Paul Eggers: Writing about Power, Race, and Language in Refugee Camps."
Peace Corps Writers,http://www.peacecorpswriters.org/ (January, 2003), John Coyne, interview with Paul Eggers.