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A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
$15.95
Paperback
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BOOK DETAILS

  • Paperback
  • Feb.01.2001
  • 9780375725784
  • Vintage Books

Dave gives an overview of the book:

From the Onion AV Club review by Joshua Klein "It's clear from the elaborate pre-preface bibliographical information that this is no ordinary memoir. Rather, the (mostly) non-fictional A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius is a postmodern memoir in the mold of Laurence Sterne's fictional The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy, a meta-narrative that turns in upon itself and tricks the reader almost every chance it gets. Eggers, one of the founders of the much-missed Might magazine, has seen enough death in his short life (including the faked murder of former child star Adam Rich) to fill such an experience-fueled endeavor, but the way he goes about doing it is what makes Staggering Genius work. When he was 21, both his parents died of cancer, and with his older brother out of the house and his sister in school, he was put in charge of his 8-year-old brother Toph...
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From the Onion AV Club review by Joshua Klein

"It's clear from the elaborate pre-preface bibliographical information that this is no ordinary memoir. Rather, the (mostly) non-fictional A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius is a postmodern memoir in the mold of Laurence Sterne's fictional The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy, a meta-narrative that turns in upon itself and tricks the reader almost every chance it gets. Eggers, one of the founders of the much-missed Might magazine, has seen enough death in his short life (including the faked murder of former child star Adam Rich) to fill such an experience-fueled endeavor, but the way he goes about doing it is what makes Staggering Genius work. When he was 21, both his parents died of cancer, and with his older brother out of the house and his sister in school, he was put in charge of his 8-year-old brother Toph. Instead of wallowing in guilt or depression, Eggers handles tragedy with sheer audacity, finding humor in the most dire situations and refusing to resort to self-pity. He and Toph live the perverse, parents-free fantasy many children fleetingly harbor, with Eggers sharing his bad habits even as he's forced to assume most of the responsibilities. ...Eggers constantly finds ways to make even standard self-analysis interesting."

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Well, this was when Bill was sighing a lot. He had decided that after our parents died he just didn't want any more fighting between what was left of us. He was twenty-four, Beth was twenty-three, I was twenty-one, Toph was eight, and all of us were so tired already, from that winter. So when something world come up, any little thing, some bill to pay or decision to make, he would just sigh, his eyes tired, his mouth in a sorry kind of smile. But Beth and I...Jesus, we were fighting with everyone, anyone, each other, with strangers at bars, anywhere -- we were angry people wanting to exact revenge. We came to California and we wanted everything, would take what was ours, anything within reach. And I decided that little Toph and I, he with his backward hat and long hair, living together in our little house in Berkeley, would be world-destroyers. We inherited each other and, we felt, a responsibility to reinvent everything, to scoff and re-create and drive fast while singing loudly and pounding the windows. It was a hopeless sort of exhilaration, a kind of arrogance born of fatalism, I guess, of the feeling that if you could lose a couple of parents in a month, then basically anything could happen, at any time -- all bullets bear your name, all cars are there to crush you, any balcony could give way; more disaster seemed only logical. And then, as in Dorothy's dream, all these people I grew up with were there, too, some of them orphans also, most but not all of us believing that what we had been given was extraordinary, that it was time to tear or break down, ruin, remake, take and devour. This was San Francisco, you know, and everyone had some dumb idea -- I mean, wicca? -- and no one there would tell you yours was doomed. Thus the public nudity, and this ridiculous magazine, and the Real World tryout, all this need, most of it disguised by sneering, but all driven by a hyper-awareness of this window, I guess, a few years when your muscles are taut, coiled up and vibrating. But what to do with the energy? I mean, when we drive, Toph and I, and we drive past people, standing on top of all these hills, part of me wants to stop the car and turn up the radio and have us all dance in formation, and part of me wants to run them all over.

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Note from the author coming soon...

About Dave

Dave Eggers is the author of six previous books, including his most recent, Zeitoun, a nonfiction account of a Syrian-American immigrant and his extraordinary experience during Hurricane Katrina, and...

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