Author Dave Eggers goes back on his word. His long-awaited first novel is causing controversy

By Matthew Flamm
Updated September 12, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT
Dave Eggers
Credit: Dave Eggers: Rafael Fuchs/Corbis Outline

His long-awaited first novel is about two guys trying to give money away, which — between funding his McSweeney’s literary journal, donating to cancer research, and running a youth center — seems to be pretty much how Dave Eggers has lived since striking it rich with ”A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” two years ago. But Eggers, who will self-publish his novel in the U.S. and has said that he doesn’t ”give a whoop about sales or money,” has raised eyebrows by hiring agent Andrew ”The Jackal” Wylie to rep McSweeney’s publications overseas. Wylie, rather famously, does give a whoop about money and has taken Eggers’ novel away from Picador (which published ”AHWOSG” in Britain), thus breaking the verbal agreement that Eggers had made for the new book. ”You Shall Know Our Velocity” will instead be published in the U.K. by higher bidder Hamish Hamilton/Penguin.

”Wylie said a verbal agreement wasn’t enough. He f—ed [Picador]…basically,” says an agent with knowledge of the deal. (Wylie did not return a call seeking comment.) President of McSweeney’s Barb Bersche responds: ”The difference in the offers made by Picador and Penguin means we can publish new books, or give away 10 new scholarships, or make necessary improvements to our [youth center’s] writing lab.”