Friday, October 31, 2008

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Posted by lea at 12:03 PM
The title is ironic: the author is attempting to write a heartbreaking work of staggering genius and he is wholly self-conscious about this endeavour. This is a rather mammoth book that describes the vulnerable, aching, egocentric and contradictory thoughts of one Dave Eggers, author extraordinaire.

The story in a nutshell is this: Dave's mother and father both die of cancer in separate incidents within months of each other. The older kids - Bill, Beth and Dave - are all grown up, but Toph, the seven year old, becomes the unofficial ward of Dave, who is 22 when he essentially becomes a single parent.

Eggers' writing is almost painfully self-aware. He deserves to be pitied. He wants to be famous. He wants to write something breathtakingly beautiful. And, in his own way, he has. He's a great storyteller and the introduction alone is worth reading for its whimsy, wit and two-fingers up to convention, including a section on 'Rules and Suggestions for Enjoyment of This Book'. He's the quintessential Gen X'er - if there is such a thing.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius has been compared to the work of JD Salinger, nominated as a Pulitzer Prize Finalist and received a host of laudatory reviews across America. After reading it, you feel like you really know the guy, and you can imagine him receiving it all with a deep sense of deserving such praise while mocking himself for wanting it so much. This is a book in which the author really bares his soul.

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