Two guys set out on a worldwide trip to give away money.
(from The New Yorker, Aug. 12, 2002)
Pretty early on I found the plot familiar. I sensed that I’d read or heard about it, that Eggers himself read a bit of something like it aloud at the TLA a couple years ago. A light horror, like a damp breeze, wafted over me. I wasn’t reading a short story, but an excerpt from a novel. Though it doesn’t label it at such anywhere within the pages of this old New Yorker I found sitting in a milkcrate on my bedroom floor — an issue I first took an interest in because of an enormous article on They Might Be Giants — “Where Were We” is either an excerpt, or a detail, or an encapsulation, or whatever, of Eggers’ by now well-known novel, You Shall Know Our Velocity.
This was a good short story. There was a conscious decision, it seems, to swerve away from the maudlin, to duck parabolic, to evade any semblance of a moral. Will and Hand are on a mission but besides that are neither defined nor empowered by purpose. Whew. The last thing we need in a story about a couple of white guys traveling around giving money to the browner peoples of the earth is some holy depth. A crash-course journey like this will be plenty life-changing without getting all heavy-handed about particular life lessons. These guys are, not idiots, but they’re not great thinkers or doers. They’re regulars, as least as I see them. They are peripheral henchmen mourning the loss of Jack, the actual protagonist in their life. This story is earnest and fun, good attributes for an adventure story.
I didn’t find the actual story online anywhere. Here‘s a Q&A with Eggers about it.