The novella’s plot moves in a straight line, event after event rolling along day by day. But The Parade can’t be reduced to its plot any more than life (individual or collective) can be reduced to bare events ... The inconsistencies in terrain distract, but overall Eggers succeeds in evoking a fractured Anyland, through which two men of opposing temperaments and views (mash them together and it’s Everyman) are tasked to pave a perfectly straight and level road ... Allegories don’t generally supply juicy psychological backstory, a complex plot, lush language. Even lacking such beloved elements of literary fiction, The Parade bestows in straightforward prose what only literary fiction can offer: a handful of time in which the reader can be embedded in another person, not to escape but to understand a part of our world that our own lives cannot reveal.
All of this is fairly engaging, though it’s tempting to think we’ve seen this buddy film before ... Which brings us to what this novel is missing. Eggers has pared his clever style down to a series of flat, declarative sentences. The characters have been crunched into types. The details of this place have been sandblasted away. At best, we’re left with the stark elements of a parable, which raises the book’s pretentiousness quotient to dangerously high levels. At worst, we have a story that conforms to the West’s reductive attitudes about the developing world ... But what’s truly disappointing is the novel’s final paragraph, which lands like a molotov cocktail of toxic cynicism.
The ever-incisive, wordly-wise, compassionate, and imaginative Eggers maintains the tension of a cocked crossbow in this magnetizing, stealthily wry, and increasingly chilling tale of First World corporate mercenaries way out of their element.
...here we are again with The Parade, the author’s first 2019 title which distills his worst tendencies into a stiff, opaque sub-200-page parable ... The Parade finds worthy areas of inquiry in its slim, spare telling, yet Eggers all but rejects the principles of good storytelling. Billed as a novel, The Parade reads more like an extended short story, reserving its knife-turn for the final page and plodding until then ... Eggers treats this morality play like a plastic wind-up toy. He introduces simplistic main characters before planting a set of obstacles on their predestined paths ... Eggers’ embrace of the saccharine had me waiting, begging for the cynical hammer to drop ... Eggers’ writing in The Parade is fine — often lovely in its attention to physical detail, utterly lacking in soul. The allegorical nature of the prose hints at weighty complexity, but what materializes ranges from a college term paper steeped in pessimism to a narrative assembled from crocodile tears ... the author’s latest is hardly eye-opening in the way fiction can and should be. Eggers is good enough to know better.
... Eggers’s vision of the world has taken on a greater seriousness. Whether that seriousness has yielded insight is another matter ... Reading about the paving of a long straight road is about as interesting as waiting for asphalt to dry. So the question of the novel is whether their road trip will prove to be an education for Four and Nine. Will it allow them to advance beyond their initial clichéd characterisations? Will they emerge as something other than ugly Americans? ... In the case of Nine, the answer is: not really ... Eggers settles into a dry idiom for the length of the novel. This spareness suggests an autobiographical reading ... For all his excesses, the younger Eggers was the more fascinating writer. You wouldn’t confuse those early books with a TED Talk.
The Parade, the latest compelling tale from Dave Eggers, is a short book, but not at the expense of anything it needs to function as a taut, direct and lean narrative. There’s not an ounce of fat on this book, and that makes it both inviting and the kind of novel that will linger in your brain for hours, even days, after you’ve read it ... The novel is sparse, free of proper names and major geographic and political details because it doesn’t need them. In deliberate, measured prose, Eggers marches his characters down the road toward uncertainty, building tension and conflict until the novel’s complex and thoughtful climax. The purposeful vagueness makes the novel feel timeless and universal, while Eggers’ way of pouring on the emotional details when it really counts makes it haunting. The Parade is a tight, thrilling, brisk read that will make you ponder your place in the world.
The pared-down style and global themes that Eggers has embraced since A Hologram for the King (2012)—he may be the only living American writer for whom the term 'Hemingway-esque' meaningfully applies—have restricted him to writing two kinds of novels. Eggers the Compassionate Realist focuses on men and women forced to adapt to economic shifting sands (Hologram; Heroes of the Frontier, 2016); Eggers the Dour Lecturer focuses on social justice concerns in ways that smother his characters (The Circle, 2013). This short novel showcases the virtues of the former, though there's a whiff of pedagogy in the prose ... The closing paragraphs of this short novel take an abrupt turn into Dour Lecturer territory, but the shift is earned; Eggers is determined to counter the notion that social and economic improvement work hand in hand, and Four and Nine ultimately resonate as characters as much as archetypes. An unassuming but deceptively complex morality play, as Eggers distills his ongoing concerns into ever tighter prose.
The repetitive narrative, sparse prose, and overall vagueness lend this an allegorical feel, and because the reader spends the whole book waiting for the hammer to drop, when it finally does (on the last page), it lands with more a thud than a wallop. There’s nothing particularly bad about this, but it comes across as more an exercise than a full-blooded novel.