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A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius: A Memoir Based on a True Story PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius: A Memoir Based on a True Story
Author: Dave Eggers
Publisher: Published by Simon & Schuster (first published February 17th 2000)
ISBN: 9780684873558
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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'When you read his extraordinary memoir you don't laugh, then cry, then laugh again; you somehow experience these emotions all at once.' "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 'When you read his extraordinary memoir you don't laugh, then cry, then laugh again; you somehow experience these emotions all at once.' "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 tried already, from that winter. So when something would 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."

30 review for A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius: A Memoir Based on a True Story

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    **Note: This review was written almost 10 years ago. I would gladly delete it, but it appears some people have engaged in fruitful back-and-forth in the comment thread. I let it stand for the sake of their discussion, but since every once in a while I wake up to an email informing me of how some stranger on the internet thinks I'm an asshole (and as I'm also a person who can't stand the heat and would gladly get out of the kitchen if I could), I'd like to add a few disclaimers. This review was wr **Note: This review was written almost 10 years ago. I would gladly delete it, but it appears some people have engaged in fruitful back-and-forth in the comment thread. I let it stand for the sake of their discussion, but since every once in a while I wake up to an email informing me of how some stranger on the internet thinks I'm an asshole (and as I'm also a person who can't stand the heat and would gladly get out of the kitchen if I could), I'd like to add a few disclaimers. This review was written by a young woman who never dreamed more than 2 or 3 people would read it. Hence, I was not attempting to be Northrop Frye. I was being silly. I entirely agree the review would be better if it attempted real, concrete criticism rather than aggressive shrugging. To write that review, though, I would have to really care about AHWOSG, and I simply do not. But that does not mean Eggers deserved mere snark. I leave it up only to a) allow people to continue their discussion and b) the mere recollection of it is a source of instantaneous humility. Finally, this review was the product of an incarnate, imperfect person with background associations and moods trickling into their work. I had a chip on my shoulder when I wrote this. You could say I was sneering at someone(s) in the review besides Eggers (of course, sneering is bad and one shouldn't do it at all, whether on the internet or face-to-face). As I wrote above, a good and meaningful review would be far more impartial, specific, and clear. But this isn't a good and meaningful review. It's a hasty sneer with perhaps some basis for its attitude but certainly not in the review as written, and the author would gladly delete it save for the fact that it hosts a comment thread other people find productive. So enjoy discussing AHWOSG on this thread, but if you are awaiting a response from me on the merits of the book or to further explode in fireworks of snark, I'm afraid you'll be waiting in vain. The thread stays; please, be polite to one another. Even if snark has some ground in the truth, it only encourages snark in others, and no one feels good or changes their mind when they feel attacked.** One of my least favorite books of all time. I cringed with frustration as I turned every page, and I only wanted to finish it so that I could say I found nothing redeeming. Oh sure, he was flashy and could draw a cheap laugh, but it was like admiration for bubbles: it went nowhere and said nothing. Henry James this is not (I don't love HJ, but I know talent when I see it and this is self-examination for voyeuristic purposes). I was disgusted with the title when I first heard of it; though I can see the attempt at self-ridicule, eh, nope, he's pretty satisfied with himself. I then heard so much lovely stuff about it, which worries me now in retrospect, but I tried it with an open mind: Nope Buddy! Why even go into the hundred reasons why it sucks, since the author is such a vapid creature full of style and lacking substance - the book doesn't really merit an intellectual attack. Really, I think it's every single thing that is wrong with certain aspects of modern literature. Foster Wallace and Eggers can suck my metaphorical dick, since they seem to exist for nothing else but their own pretension. Way to reveal modern angst boys, sorry that people a lot smarter did it better a hundred years ago, and said something relevant for people who weren't self-absorbed fops. I look forward to a future world cataclysm in which this book can be lost, and something worthwhile take its place in the literary canon. (Also, I apologize to all the people who really sincerely love this book. I know I like some things that can be deemed pretty trivial. And who knows, maybe the author is a nice enough guy. I just, I gotta say it, I really can't stand this book, and wish there were better books around to take away some of its appeal. Art for the ego just doesn't seem enough). My memories of the book have grown hazy, and I did write my first review while living in New Orleans. I think I slammed down a drink at Igors at 3 am while waving Flannery or Walker or Eudora in the air and swore that Franzen and Eggers were my metaphysical enemies and one day I would read Wittgenstein deeply enough to make seemingly-profound arguments about nonsense culture-consumers like "Stop making literature a habit of stylistic consumption and read something and decide if it's true." I remain too lazy, but still, I think we should read literature with an idea of the Good, and how to pursue it. My always-reforming vision has been consistent about thinking of this not as a charming memoir but as a lazy memoir without real love or value. I wish I could see what so many think they do, but it remains mirror-playing to me.. Maybe most of this is late-night fighting-Tara b.s., but I still think my absurd perspective is still more concerned about what is good and lovely and true than the steady narcissism of AHWOSG.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Polly

    look. it's cool to hate on dave eggers. it's *so cool* to be post-dave-eggers, and talk about how you didn't really like this book all that much, and it's even cooler to totally hate this book. it's like a coolness interview question. "did you like his book?" "yeah, I really did." "well, we can't be friends with *you*..." this is just like those hipsters who don't like justin timberlake. fuck you, hipsters. that new album is solid gold. I loved this book. I loved it, and I still love it. I wish to look. it's cool to hate on dave eggers. it's *so cool* to be post-dave-eggers, and talk about how you didn't really like this book all that much, and it's even cooler to totally hate this book. it's like a coolness interview question. "did you like his book?" "yeah, I really did." "well, we can't be friends with *you*..." this is just like those hipsters who don't like justin timberlake. fuck you, hipsters. that new album is solid gold. I loved this book. I loved it, and I still love it. I wish to god I had sent away for the optional large-scale flow chart. at one point in my life, I had several (*several*) copies of this book, and I gave them away and lent them out and now I have none. one of those copies was practically destroyed with the underlining and highlighting and dog-earing-of-pages I practiced on it. I wish to god I still had that one. and listen, cool kids. deep in the uncool heart of you, you loved it too. so step off.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Karina

    Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck. I was reading this book and around page 237 (or was it 327? fuck), I figured it out- he's talking to ME. He wrote this book for me. Dave Eggers looked into the future and saw that I would want to read a self-referential, self-satisfying memoir. He knew that I would be trying to figure stuff, being in my twenties and all, and while not dealing with the enormity of losing both parents and having to rear a young sibling, I would have my own shit to work through. He. fucki Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck. I was reading this book and around page 237 (or was it 327? fuck), I figured it out- he's talking to ME. He wrote this book for me. Dave Eggers looked into the future and saw that I would want to read a self-referential, self-satisfying memoir. He knew that I would be trying to figure stuff, being in my twenties and all, and while not dealing with the enormity of losing both parents and having to rear a young sibling, I would have my own shit to work through. He. fucking. knew. But why not just make it more obvious? Why not dedicate the book to me? Or send me a note, an email even: "Hey Karina- I know we've never met but I know that this book could really help you out. Love, Dave" Maybe "love" is too much. "Sincerely, and wishing you the best, Dave" Ok, even a modest "Sincerely" would have been adequate. But I think I know why he didn't do that. He wanted to mess with me. WANTED to. He wanted me have that revelation on my own. I would thank him, but honestly, I didn't like the book. No, I didn't HATE the book. If I had HATED the book, I would have given it one star, right? But for all the hype, it really was very frustrating. I even started skimming by the end. Hey, maybe you've even started skimming this review. That's ok. I understand. I just didn't need to hear any more of his selfish, whining, complaining, navel-gazing, cutseyness sometimes. It was too much. And by the end I was really kinda hating him. Which I think is something he would have been ok with, expecting even. It was too cute, too overdone, needed to be edited, cut in half. The stuff about his mother in the beginning was beautiful, because it felt sincere. ok, maybe that is his schtick- an insincere memoir, hiding behind a supposed stance of openness and sharing. well, screw that. That isn't why I read that kind of book. So bugger off Eggers and don't write any more books for me, ok?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Clare

    I disliked so very much about this book. The grating self-awareness, the oh-I'm-so-clever stream of consciousness asides, the indescribably tedious discussion of his magazine work. But the heart of the book, the story of Eggers and his young brother trying to be each other's whole family after the death of their parents, is genuinely sad and funny all at once, a difficult feat to accomplish. I wish he'd stuck to telling that story instead of trying so hard to make me think he's a staggering geni I disliked so very much about this book. The grating self-awareness, the oh-I'm-so-clever stream of consciousness asides, the indescribably tedious discussion of his magazine work. But the heart of the book, the story of Eggers and his young brother trying to be each other's whole family after the death of their parents, is genuinely sad and funny all at once, a difficult feat to accomplish. I wish he'd stuck to telling that story instead of trying so hard to make me think he's a staggering genius. This book made me realize how much I resent authors playing around with style before they've proved to me that they can just tell a sory in an effective way. I just want to say, "You're not too smart for traditional prose if, say, Jane Austen isn't. If you have something to say, say it. Impress me with your grasp of language, not your ability to posture."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    as a huge douglas coupland fan, i thought i might enjoy 'a heartbreaking work...' i should've known better. i tried to read 'you shall know our velocity' last year and found it entirely unreadable. i gave up after 200 pages of nonsense. several friends raved about 'ahwoasg,' so i thought, 'ok, i'll give eggars another try.' again, i was horribly disappointed. the pros: yes, it's funny at times and very *honest* (though can we take eggars at his word? never trust an autobiography). i laughed out as a huge douglas coupland fan, i thought i might enjoy 'a heartbreaking work...' i should've known better. i tried to read 'you shall know our velocity' last year and found it entirely unreadable. i gave up after 200 pages of nonsense. several friends raved about 'ahwoasg,' so i thought, 'ok, i'll give eggars another try.' again, i was horribly disappointed. the pros: yes, it's funny at times and very *honest* (though can we take eggars at his word? never trust an autobiography). i laughed out loud several times while reading. many of eggars observations are insightful and funny. and yes, we do feel badly for dave and toph (at least in the beginning) and the the sibs after they lose their parents and head west. the 'here's a drawing of a stapler' was a good one, but the novel is short on humor and long on 'look at me and feel badly for me and my poor little brother.' in the end i just didn't care, nor did i have any reason TO care. narcissists don't necessarily make compelling protagonists. the cons: 500 pages of psychobabble, 'witticisms,' and 'biting obseravtions' don't necessarily make one a 'talented writer,' as so many have stated. get an editor, for crying out loud. the prose isn't anything write home about -- it's sloppy and unfocused (and what's the dropping the 'f-bomb' 20 times per page? get a thesaurus while you're at it). read eggars and then read steinbeck, eugenides, or ishiguro and you'll see the masters at work. this novel is so completely self-indulgent and bloated that i kept looking for a needle under my bed to pop the darn thing. eggars tries WAY too hard to show how 'clever' he is (by using his oh-so-ironic hipster slang), but he's not as clever as he wants to believe (unless he's playing us all -- if that's case, i would applaud him). in short, it has it's funny moments, but so did my grandma's funeral. i'm just glad i bought it used.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    I hated loved was totally frustrated by was sucked into couldn't stand couldn't put down dreaded picking up wanted to like was attacked by wanted to burn finished this book. Alternative title: A Self-Indulgent Work of Festering Genius The worst book I couldn't put down; the best book I've ever wanted to set on fire. Updated: Found in my bedside reading journal: - it's self-conscious & pretentious, but pretentious in the way that smart kids are when they're trying to be cool but are still riled u I hated loved was totally frustrated by was sucked into couldn't stand couldn't put down dreaded picking up wanted to like was attacked by wanted to burn finished this book. Alternative title: A Self-Indulgent Work of Festering Genius The worst book I couldn't put down; the best book I've ever wanted to set on fire. Updated: Found in my bedside reading journal: - it's self-conscious & pretentious, but pretentious in the way that smart kids are when they're trying to be cool but are still riled up by grammatical slips etc. — betrayed by their own proclivities

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bryon

    I had problems with Dave Eggers for a long time. Having never read a word he'd written, I immaturely thought I had every right to hate him. He was young, successful, and adored by critics. That was enough right there. When it first came out, I would see AHWOSG in the bookstore and grimace at it (more than once, I even gave it the evil eye). My loathing was out of sheer jealousy. I recognized it as such back then, but still carried on. It's hard to let go of things sometimes. OK. Fast forward thre I had problems with Dave Eggers for a long time. Having never read a word he'd written, I immaturely thought I had every right to hate him. He was young, successful, and adored by critics. That was enough right there. When it first came out, I would see AHWOSG in the bookstore and grimace at it (more than once, I even gave it the evil eye). My loathing was out of sheer jealousy. I recognized it as such back then, but still carried on. It's hard to let go of things sometimes. OK. Fast forward three or four years. I still have a lot of pent up animosity for those writers who are so far ahead of me. However, this fear, thinly cloaked as a juicy eccentricity has dissipated a great deal upon reading Eggers' triumphant, naked, brutally pure and dramatically veracious window into a life bereft of normalcy. What is normalcy? Nobody knows (and quite frankly, nobody should care), but I'll tell you what it's not: having to deal with the death of both your parents within mere months of each other. That just doesn't happen to people. On the rare and awful occassions when it does, the children involved are devastated. It happened to Eggers and his siblings. When his mother died, he was left to share custody of his younger brother Toph. Still just a child, Toph grew up under the sometimes bizarre, always concerned eye of his older brother Dave. The center of AHWOSG is truly the great and hilarious relationship Eggers has with Toph. To try to describe how they both grew up together in the strange and bumpy post-parental freedom-for-all (with strict rules of obtaining said freedom) would be detrimental to the experiences you can have in Eggers' world. So we won't venture further. Rest assured, there's a seal-tight bond there, one few can probably relate to. Smirking just on the borders of the author's fatherly/brotherly/friendly/loving/do-right-for-the-little-jerk attitude is the fully-aware-of-everything-that-is-and-is-not persona that he is constantly invoking and daring to take him just one step further... just to the brink... just to push him off. His emotions are bloody rare, like a T-Bone rippling with E. coli. His running, inner monologue and occasional tabooed thoughts are cut from his heart with a dull spork and served to the reader à la mode--as if the sweet, cold vanilla sub-thought could lighten the mood. It does. And his words never fail to render a heartbreaking, poetic, screaming justice for his soul. I ate it up. I wanted more. I swallowed my jealousy and loved it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    William2

    A very fine book, but tied closely with its period, so a bit dated. I suppose the publisher will be foot noting it before too long. I’m going to have to read that really long, really serious Péter Nádas’ novel afterward, for AHWOSG is far too hysterical. Excessive hysteria pushed past all reasonable thresholds of human tolerance into the realm of whistling past the graveyard. I think it’s the twentysomething prospect of near-continuous coitus that’s to blame, making the text at times almost a gi A very fine book, but tied closely with its period, so a bit dated. I suppose the publisher will be foot noting it before too long. I’m going to have to read that really long, really serious Péter Nádas’ novel afterward, for AHWOSG is far too hysterical. Excessive hysteria pushed past all reasonable thresholds of human tolerance into the realm of whistling past the graveyard. I think it’s the twentysomething prospect of near-continuous coitus that’s to blame, making the text at times almost a giddy stream of consciousness. Yes, sex, and the subsequent sadness that visits all animals (see Galen), is effervescently behind the unrelenting half-grimacing hysteria here, the flopsweaty feigned cool. Everyone is a walking talking cut of meat, under constant appraisal, marked up or down accordingly. Every waking moment, my God, the pressure to be hot... Then our narrator and his friend are fucking on a public beach at night. Some Hispanic kids come up. The lovers are virtually naked. The passersby are needlessly cruel as only youngsters can be. It’s as if they can’t turn away from this spectacle of sex. It holds them in thrall. They know they should move away but they don’t. Then our narrator makes things worse by threatening to call the cops. He can’t find his wallet, which belonged his late father. (N.B. The kids don’t have it.) He doesn’t hesitate to tell them of the disadvantage they will be at when the police arrive. It’s ugly, but riveting. Also repugnant is the narrator blaming his friend, John, who tries to commit what is admittedly a ridiculous attempt at suicide. His empathy fails. Eggers seems on my a pace here to outdo Will Self’s not infrequently humiliating cruelty. Like Self, Eggers will go to almost any length to outrage the reader in the name of entertainment. And Eggers knows this, pulls the cruelty in for a post-modernist textual query every now and then, in which his shame is poked and prodded as a means of self absolution. But he upbraids himself for this, too. He really doesn’t let himself off the hook easily. Everything, you might say, no matter the cost, is bought and paid for. The narrator’s guilty and brilliant digressions, when he’s taken a little time out for himself, must be ⅓ of the book. When for instance he leaves Tōpf with a new sitter and goes out seeking sex. His imaginings of what might happen to Tōph in his absence are grotesque and wild. It’s touching because he’s 22, beginning his sexually active life, and divided between that travail and what remains of his family. The nonsense associated with his fly-by-night magazine, Might, is hilarious; especially the Adam Rich faux obit whose ramifications neither the undead nor the editors were prepared to handle. Then there’s Tōph who, with the narrator’s canny last-second maneuvering, gets a handshake from Bill Clinton outside Chez Panisse. The narrator passing a kidney stone. Have you ever seen one of those things? They look like jacks or perhaps a barb cut from barbed wire. Poor man. But the frisbee playing–there I drew the line; 35 pages on frisbee tricks; I think not. Anyway, the prose flies faultlessly along. Even the parts that are too long, like the MTV interview, which is a wonderful critique of the show’s clichés, but at 54 pages egregiously long. This is Generation X’s On the Road, but with name brands and well known movies and historical events peppered throughout. Reading it 17 years after publication it feels like a kind of period novel, not unlike Saul Bellow’s Humboldt’s Gift, but without the big picture view of geopolitical and celebrity shenanigans. That’s high praise. What strikes me most is Eggers’s recognition of his subject matter. That was very shrewd indeed. To know he had this story before him. The parental deaths are horrible, no question, and the pressure on the author to be a kind of pre-parent at age 22 to his brother Tōph is unfair. Fortunately, he and his brother were blessed by an enormously rich social network. That’s a gift. In that sense I envy them. That, if anything, was their saving grace.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte May

    Well, this was an uphill struggle. Such dense writing, about nothing important - paragraphs and paragraphs of random crap, like throwing a frisbee, or whether or not he will sleep with a girl and then being unsure what actually occurred afterwards. I’m baffled that Eggers managed to drag this out for just under 500 pages. There is no feeling, I didn’t connect with any of the characters, they were so two-dimensional. Just a timeline of his life bringing up his brother after his parents died. Movi Well, this was an uphill struggle. Such dense writing, about nothing important - paragraphs and paragraphs of random crap, like throwing a frisbee, or whether or not he will sleep with a girl and then being unsure what actually occurred afterwards. I’m baffled that Eggers managed to drag this out for just under 500 pages. There is no feeling, I didn’t connect with any of the characters, they were so two-dimensional. Just a timeline of his life bringing up his brother after his parents died. Moving from house to house, the paperwork he forgets, the difficulty of juggling his social life with the raising of a dependent. But the writing was just so tedious, so bulky, I didn’t like it, skimmed a lot and just generally felt like I’d wasted my time. I liked the premise, just not the execution.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave. What can I say? I can sort of remember picking up this book in a bookstore somewhere and reading the first few pages… now, not the first few pages of the story, but I’m talking about the copyright page. Freaking Dave Eggers is writing his novel starting with the copyright page? Wild man, wild man! So, I read it. I liked it. It was this nonstop stream of consciousness kind of thing, which I found a bit comforting, cause that’s how I think. I mean, of course that’s how I th Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave. What can I say? I can sort of remember picking up this book in a bookstore somewhere and reading the first few pages… now, not the first few pages of the story, but I’m talking about the copyright page. Freaking Dave Eggers is writing his novel starting with the copyright page? Wild man, wild man! So, I read it. I liked it. It was this nonstop stream of consciousness kind of thing, which I found a bit comforting, cause that’s how I think. I mean, of course that’s how I think, cause my mind will just sometimes ramble on and on and on about nothing in particular. It could be about donuts that my mind is thinking about, it could be about women. Maybe it’s about basketball. I miss Michael Jordan. 1992 was the year they first made the Dream Team for the U.S. Basketball Olympic team. Do you remember all 12 members? I do. Swear to God I’m not looking this up: Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Clyde Drexler, Chris Mullins, Patrick Ewing, and the one college player Duke’s very own Christian Lattner (I don’t know how to spell his name… okay, I looked it up- it’s Laettner) And really what ever happened to that guy? How did he get on the dream team? One shot? He hit the winning shot in an NCAA basketball tournament. That’s it. That’s all he ever did. Shaq O’neill was waiting in the wings. Hell Isaiah Thomas could have been that last player, but apparently Michael Jordan didn’t want Isaiah on the team. Who knows if that rumor is true? Certainly not me. Anyway, a friend of mine read the book and she didn’t like it so much. Which almost made me question how I felt about the book, but then I thought, “No, stay with your belief system man! Don’t let someone else’s opinion sway you.” But that did get me to thinking if there were books that men preferred over women, and vice versa. I don’t mean sexist misogynistic type books, but I’m talking the writing style specifically. Is there a cadence to writing that men prefer? Is there a cadence that women prefer? Maybe someone should write a thesis about that. I know it’s not going to be me. I didn’t major in psychology, though looking back I wish I would have because there were so many cute girls in the psychology department. In conclusion, I enjoyed this book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Before I picked up this book I had heard endless tales of how wonderfully smart and funny this book was, how terrific the writing was and how the originality would slap me in the face like a cool wind on a summer's day. They were wrong. I hated this book like The Cure hates happiness. I understand writer's have their own style, and that is what, in and of itself, separates them from all the others. But, seriously, we learn paragraph breaks for a reason. It gives the mind's eye a break, a breathe Before I picked up this book I had heard endless tales of how wonderfully smart and funny this book was, how terrific the writing was and how the originality would slap me in the face like a cool wind on a summer's day. They were wrong. I hated this book like The Cure hates happiness. I understand writer's have their own style, and that is what, in and of itself, separates them from all the others. But, seriously, we learn paragraph breaks for a reason. It gives the mind's eye a break, a breather. Eggers, a rebel in his own mind, discards such mannerisms. Aside from that debilitating hindrance, the book is THE example for egotism gone awry. Now, before you start, yes, I am aware that a memoir book is, essentially, an ego stroke. But the good writers, they have the ability to make you forget that it's merely self-indulgence, sweep you up in their lives...in their story. Rather than want to beg the author in so many ways as to warrant that 500 feet order to invite you over, Eggers is the kind of guy you would actually go out of your way to avoid.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Clearly, this is a polarizing book. All I'll add is that the first time I read it, sometime in the middle of college, I had all of the negative reactions I've read here. It was sometimes funny, and sad and beautiful and all that, but mostly it was an autobiography by an asshole who was full of himself and I just didn't see why I should care, why I should keep reading. And then I read it again a few years later. And I don't really know what happened in between exactly. Maybe I became friends with Clearly, this is a polarizing book. All I'll add is that the first time I read it, sometime in the middle of college, I had all of the negative reactions I've read here. It was sometimes funny, and sad and beautiful and all that, but mostly it was an autobiography by an asshole who was full of himself and I just didn't see why I should care, why I should keep reading. And then I read it again a few years later. And I don't really know what happened in between exactly. Maybe I became friends with more assholes. Maybe I became more of an asshole myself. But I really loved it the second time. By the end, I was feeling the kind of exhilaration and momentum that I've only gotten from a handful of books ever. The other interesting thing is, I had this exact same series of reactions with Catcher in the Rye. Granted, I read that way too early. Like, 8th or 9th grade. But still, same reaction. So, maybe give it another try in a few years if you're so inclined. Also, I'm kind of okay with Dave Eggers being a bit of an egotistical asshole. Honestly, I think that he delivers enough that I don't really care what kind of guy he is. Yeah, the McSweeney's empire has probably been overhyped, and I won't go into that here, but I don't think that most of the attention he's gotten has been unjustified. At the very least, I think that he's trying to get more people to read and write. I'm not sure how successful he's been, but the goal is noble and rare and I approve.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    This book has not aged well. I read it when it first came out, somewhere around 2000, and I remember loving its high-energy sentences and how Eggers shared his emotions about losing both his parents to cancer and taking guardianship of his youngest brother, Toph (short for Christopher). I was in my 20s back then, and I could relate to the author's angst about life, his career, his relationships, blah blah blah. Fourteen years later, I picked it up again as a book club assignment. My reaction this This book has not aged well. I read it when it first came out, somewhere around 2000, and I remember loving its high-energy sentences and how Eggers shared his emotions about losing both his parents to cancer and taking guardianship of his youngest brother, Toph (short for Christopher). I was in my 20s back then, and I could relate to the author's angst about life, his career, his relationships, blah blah blah. Fourteen years later, I picked it up again as a book club assignment. My reaction this time was almost the total opposite: I hated the author and how narcissistic he was, I thought his writing was pretentious and too clever by half, and the book was SO LONG and tedious that it needed a better editor. I'm talking about someone who would slash and burn more than 200 pages from this sucker. This person should have the guts to tell Eggers, “Dude, not every word you think needs to be written down. Maybe you should self-censor.” Some parts I would cut are the longwinded preface and acknowledgments (DO NOT READ! It is a waste of time and paper!), and also the unnecessary addendum to the paperback, called "Mistakes We Knew We Were Making." All of that junk is Eggers trying to be funny about his writing process and his wild and crazy group of friends in San Francisco, but it just comes across as annoying. (And when you get to his interview for MTV’s Real World, skip ahead 20 pages. It’s just him spewing nonsense.) What was interesting about rereading this book (now that I am older and slightly wiser) was noticing how much Eggers imitated David Foster Wallace's writing. It's a meandering and detail-driven style that one either loves or hates, so if you are a fan of DFW’s fiction, you might like this book more than I did.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Eric C

    I was sick of Eggers' self-absorbed schtick after three pages of the preface. But, the cover read "pulitzer prize finalist" (among other superlatives), so I forged on. I'd made it to page 33 of the actual text (without laughing once) when I noticed Eggers' picture on the back cover. He reminded me of some people I'd met when I was working at a startup company during the early internet boom. They were so full of themselves with their free-wheeling style, their stock options, and their flat-front banana- I was sick of Eggers' self-absorbed schtick after three pages of the preface. But, the cover read "pulitzer prize finalist" (among other superlatives), so I forged on. I'd made it to page 33 of the actual text (without laughing once) when I noticed Eggers' picture on the back cover. He reminded me of some people I'd met when I was working at a startup company during the early internet boom. They were so full of themselves with their free-wheeling style, their stock options, and their flat-front banana-republic slacks. I felt they were full of shit, but it took me awhile to act on that feeling with confidence, and, thus, to stay in school. History ultimately proved me right. Therefore, I decided to learn from that history, and I threw this book in the trash.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Fabian

    About a boy who loses both parents & must then become a parent to his own sibling ... Sure, many elements must converge to make a wee autobiography one outstanding read. Here's the jist: Eggers is an almost-household name writer who abuses his witty (ha-ha-ha) title and confounds the reader with an (incredibly dragged-out) insistence upon his own life story. Bookmarked by the dual tragedy of losing parents to cancer (within weeks of one another) are a bunch of vanilla events making up the bu About a boy who loses both parents & must then become a parent to his own sibling ... Sure, many elements must converge to make a wee autobiography one outstanding read. Here's the jist: Eggers is an almost-household name writer who abuses his witty (ha-ha-ha) title and confounds the reader with an (incredibly dragged-out) insistence upon his own life story. Bookmarked by the dual tragedy of losing parents to cancer (within weeks of one another) are a bunch of vanilla events making up the bulk of the narrative: the guy knows just how vanilla it all is, and by using the tragedy as a platform to exalt HIMSELF (!) he can comfortably become the new superliterary Tyra Banks. Obviously by starting with the incident and by ending with it, the tugging at the heartstrings is seen as mechanical, a (if not THE) gimmick. It IS heartbreaking, though. Almost enough to (just like with my experience with 'Animal's People") put it down for good, if not for the attempt to make this into an even MORE personal account, promising much, even having revised editions put out, with new additions, clarifications notes, etc. Oh, Eggers: We truly care about you (why else read 400+ pages of your life?)!!! Post-modernism is promised throughout, as if this novel device will leave the reader awe-struck, as if the work shall surely be "staggering"! The only development here is the author's promises of a "straightforward" first half and a whimsical, self-absorbed postmodern second half. It's all a LIE (!!!) There is so much anger in this that it negatively affects the plot itself (how he is completely obsessed by his blond haired-blue eyed sibling, how he thinks bad things will happen any time, how he wants to fight the status quo he has no real problems with...). Once one discovers that at an editor's request to paint a "deeply hilarious" portrait of tragedy (I will bow down only to this: the Writer's Balls... his deep courage to prostitute away such an intimate detail in order to sell books [a method which, by the way, actually worked!]), to make it wacky and somewhat self-aware (only in that dreary, lazy way of the Postmodern work labeling itself as such), all the magic, all realism (which, in all truth, is what's incredibly HEARTBREAKING) is gone.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Quann

    For the first half of this Dave Eggers book--which everyone has been telling me to read since the dawn of time-- I was absolutely in love with Eggers' writing. Eggers' unique voice coupled with his heartbreaking, raw, and personal familial tragedy made for a story that was both poignant and interesting to read. I really enjoyed his asides, and found myself smiling when a conversation between Eggers and his younger brother evolved into a metatextual examination of Eggers' entire venture. But then For the first half of this Dave Eggers book--which everyone has been telling me to read since the dawn of time-- I was absolutely in love with Eggers' writing. Eggers' unique voice coupled with his heartbreaking, raw, and personal familial tragedy made for a story that was both poignant and interesting to read. I really enjoyed his asides, and found myself smiling when a conversation between Eggers and his younger brother evolved into a metatextual examination of Eggers' entire venture. But then I got to the long form interview and the wheels sort of fell off the back-half of the story. What worked as cute, funny, or poignant in the first half turns into some sort of artistic ouroboros in which Eggers rarely grounds the story enough for the more experimental tricks he's trying to pull off. Naturally, Eggers prefaces this shift during the aforementioned interview. There's some parts of the second half of the book that I really enjoyed, but it definitely lacks the quality of the opening half. It's a shame because I was so impressed with the first half and so lukewarm by the book's end. No doubt that the book is readable despite its experimental trappings: I read through it in sessions that were long, but I seldom felt as if I were putting in work. I'm glad that I finally got around to this one, thanks to everyone for pushing me to read it!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Joe Valdez

    A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius, the 2000 memoir by Dave Eggers, was recommended to me by a college student I've gotten to know at McClain's Coffeehouse. I spend my weekends there writing and wasting time on social media while this guy is studying French or wasting time playing poker. We use each other as a sounding board when we're writing. We both love to read; he can't believe I've never read William Faulkner or Philip Roth. I can't believe he's never read Elmore Leonard or Stephen A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius, the 2000 memoir by Dave Eggers, was recommended to me by a college student I've gotten to know at McClain's Coffeehouse. I spend my weekends there writing and wasting time on social media while this guy is studying French or wasting time playing poker. We use each other as a sounding board when we're writing. We both love to read; he can't believe I've never read William Faulkner or Philip Roth. I can't believe he's never read Elmore Leonard or Stephen King. We agree that John Steinbeck and Flannery O'Connor are our people. I feel it's also relevant to mention that I'm forty-three and this guy is twenty-three. He's intelligent and could be a really good writer, but he's also twenty-three, and does shit that you do in your twenties, like disgrace yourself with alcohol or drugs, misplace valuable items and stress over things that you can't control. It occurs to me that I'm old enough to be this guy's dad and have motive and opportunity every now and then to give him a Father-Son Talk, but try not to. It might make me feel a little better but I'm not sure it would help him right now. If he asks for advice I'll offer it, but I don't want to father my friends. The other thing I don't want to father is the books I read. Like this one. What are we going to do about Dave? I don't really know, but I resent an author who turns me into a guidance counselor or youth pastor on my day off. In this imaginative account of his early life, Eggers was on track to earn a journalism degree until the deaths of his parents within the same year--his father from brain and lung cancer, his mother from stomach cancer--force him to take time for himself to Question Everything. Dave's hiatus is exacerbated by his eight-year-old brother Topher, who he assumes guardianship of while his sister Beth finishes her law degree at the University of Berkeley and his brother Bill works in Los Angeles. Dave and Toph relocate to the San Francisco Bay Area, where the tech boom is transforming the country and his generation. Sounds like the basis for a compelling book. Except this edition begins with two pages of suggestions from Eggers on how to enjoy the book (including, "There is no overwhelming need to read the preface. Really. It exists mostly for the author .."), followed by a nine page preface, followed by twenty-five pages of acknowledgments which includes a sketch of a stapler. EXT. MCCLAIN'S COFFEEHOUSE--DAY Joe storms onto the patio of the cafe. The sunlight forces his eyelids into slits and the sound of industrial dryers of the car wash across Harbor Blvd. disorient him. Joe is able to locate Bryan under the canopy of the building, smoking a cigarette and studying. Joe stomps over to his friend with a book in his hand. JOE: There's like thirty pages of preface and introductions to this book you recommended, man. BRYAN: Oh, you don't need to read any of that. JOE: You're telling me he wrote this book for himself? BRYAN: You can skip it. Skip it! Eggers even tells the reader it's okay to. It's good, man! Trust me. Bryan emits a plume of nicotine onto the patio. Joe turns and returns to the cafe. I read a great deal of A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius, 270/437 pages, before abandoning this hooptedoodle. It is not for me. I am not the demographic for navel gazing, no matter how literary it aspires to be. If I was still questioning my place on the planet, or through controlled substances and poor decisions had forgotten what planet I was on, then sure, I could appreciate the self-obsessed shit storm Eggers unloads here, resisting the conventional memoir or comic narratives commonly found in them. I'm glad he got this out of his system and figured things out. It was worth it for McSweeney's. I just don't want to have to read it. The fact that I plowed through as much of the book as I did is a testament to the hand drawn, DIY look and feel of it, more like pages ripped out of a spiral notebook rather than a memoir intended for the masses. I was with the book in the beginning. Eggers throws the reader into his experiences caring for his cancer-stricken mother at home, with limited help from his sister while also having responsibility for his young brother. It probably isn't a spoiler that after Dave's mother dies, he and Topher move to the Bay Area, where much ennui ensues. For many, many, many pages. This book becomes an incessantly self-obsessed, irritating and boring account of White Man's Problems in the United States. I ran out of reasons to keep reading. No one who braves this volume should expect a comic memoir. Humor isn't really what Dave Eggers does. "Irony" and "self-revelation" are way ahead of "humor" on the list. There's a recurring motif where he devotes paragraphs to how amazingly talented he is at things--singing, Frisbee throwing--and I get it. You're a child trying to entertain the child you've been given responsibility for. Point made. I'm over it. Move on. Eggers lost both his parents at a young age. Many people do. Eggers doesn't know what he wants to do with his life. Not many people do. Tell me a story. Let's go. Otherwise, as an adult, you're wasting my motherfucking time.

  18. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    It's taken me two years to get around to reading this much-hyped modern classic. In that time, I have put up four shelves, had intercourse over twenty times, eaten nine scones, and met one Scottish celeb. His name will not be published here, as he was rude about my purple-brown shirt. Fool. Dave Eggers is preoccupied with heart-rending human dramas of Promethean magnitude, as his follow-up books What is the What and Zeitoun attest: he is that long arterial cord thingie linking the heart with the It's taken me two years to get around to reading this much-hyped modern classic. In that time, I have put up four shelves, had intercourse over twenty times, eaten nine scones, and met one Scottish celeb. His name will not be published here, as he was rude about my purple-brown shirt. Fool. Dave Eggers is preoccupied with heart-rending human dramas of Promethean magnitude, as his follow-up books What is the What and Zeitoun attest: he is that long arterial cord thingie linking the heart with the mind. So it's hard to review such a maddening and addictive, charming and twee, frenetic and furious, hilarious and infuriating novel as this. Compared to his follow-up work, this memoir is light and breezy. The adventures of a recently orphaned lower-middle-class writer, building his reputation for literary innovation while raising his kid brother Toph, are hardly dripping with the pain and suffering of Valentino Achek Deng. Yet Eggers writes in a such a dazzling and strange way, you can't help but marvel at his literary magic. I left the book feeling slightly cold, however, somewhat overly aware of this book's artifice: the self-conscious asides reveal a jarring truth about the book-being-a-book that makes it hard to connect with on a visceral level. I think Eggers undermines himself, and in the final analysis, this impedes upon its lasting power. Still. We like Dave, do we not?

  19. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    omg OMG! which one of you was it?!?!? which one of you snekay little emo kids managed to pull this off!? you know, wilcan's level 400 creative writing class? last semester of my senior year of college? we had the classroom in Times Hall that didn't get air conditioning! i passed out in the middle of class right before spring break? that one time, when the health center prescribed me the wrong medication for my bronchitis!!!! don't you remember!? well i do. don't think i didn't catch this. i've na omg OMG! which one of you was it?!?!? which one of you snekay little emo kids managed to pull this off!? you know, wilcan's level 400 creative writing class? last semester of my senior year of college? we had the classroom in Times Hall that didn't get air conditioning! i passed out in the middle of class right before spring break? that one time, when the health center prescribed me the wrong medication for my bronchitis!!!! don't you remember!? well i do. don't think i didn't catch this. i've narrowed the potential culprits down to just half the class already, but it's going to be pretty hard from here, considering the INSANE amount of students who thought "stream of consciousness" was an adequate way to convey all emotions, character development, foreshadowing, suspense, and or basic plot, for the entirety of their novellas. it's ok though, i'm going to work this out. if i divide that class among groups, we've got our basic five. 1. jocks/journalism majors who needed four writing credits to graduate 2. the overweight harbingers of creative death via estrogen and bad romance "storylines" that WERE NOT HARLEM ROMANCES! (of course, dears) 3. the emo kids (this gets slightly complicated because we have to have sub groups, there were so many.) 3a. emo kids who were emo because they were too scared to be goths. wore a lot of black, and drew on themselves with magic marker. amusing only because our college was in a place where i rained... a lot. 3b. emo kids who wore flannel. they are all writing the next great american novel, which just happens to be about themsevles. 3c. emo poets. nuff said. 4. the two boys from TV/R who wrote every short story requirement about a fart named Bob who aspired to be a folk singer. god bless you gentlemen, wherever you now are. 5. the kids who just liked to write. (i'm not sure where to put lacy. quiet, shy little lacy, who seemed normal, until that writing assignment where we had to imagine a horrifying event through the eyes of a character we would never otherwise assume. lacy, who normally wrote touching vignettes about cute little old people, read aloud to the class a graphic, horrifying short story about a farmer girl who has wild sex with her brother until their father finds them and stabs her through the heart with a pitchfork. i still have nightmares) Now, I know it isn't the TV/Radio majors, because last time I heard from them one had been expelled for growing the largest Marijuana farm ever amongst pea plants in the bio-halls greenhouse. Jocks aren't motivated enough. And there's a lot of sexual frustration in "a heartbreaking work", so i didn't wanna rule out the harbingers of creative death, but lets be honest. not even they could make it through 400 pages of very very very little bodice ripping sex. so that leaves, of course, the emo kids. the MASTERS of self involved stream of conscious rambling that verges on mind numbing blather. which makes perfect sense. one day, the magic marker musta just imploded your mind, man, and you realized... shit, i'm neve gonna get my story published unless i tie up dave eggers in my basement and substitute my writing for his. and it was a good plot. you almost had me. there were little tidbits of emotion driven plot in which i found myself tempted to invest in the storyline. but there WAS NO STORYLINE, was there? the only interesting part was *sometimes* the characters, and they weren't even characters! oh the irony... it's a MEMOIR! dave eggers/you didn't have to think, you just described real people who were actually interesting! damn. it's brilliant. if only that secretary at the miami herald would slip up and give me dave berry's address. i too would be well on my way towards... towards... huh. i'll get back to you on that one.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Plenty of clever people have written about A.H.W.O.S.G., but Eggers himself may have done it best with the preface, acknowledgements, and even the title of his book. It all portends a memoir that is sad, funny, smart, and honest. He shrewdly pre-empts criticism about his self-obsession by professing to be self-conscious about it – a kind of meta-awareness that’s somehow more appealing. It’s clear before the book begins that he’s got that Gen X hipster axe to wield for sarcastic, irreverent purpo Plenty of clever people have written about A.H.W.O.S.G., but Eggers himself may have done it best with the preface, acknowledgements, and even the title of his book. It all portends a memoir that is sad, funny, smart, and honest. He shrewdly pre-empts criticism about his self-obsession by professing to be self-conscious about it – a kind of meta-awareness that’s somehow more appealing. It’s clear before the book begins that he’s got that Gen X hipster axe to wield for sarcastic, irreverent purposes. Since he playfully/helpfully includes a key to the book’s metaphors in the preface, I thought I’d explain that my use of “axe” is meant as something to grind and also as something to swing as he hacks his way through the bonds of literary convention. The story itself is about how he, as a young twenty-something, had to face the death of both parents within a few months of each other and then raise his 8-year-old brother. He’s a very protective stand-in, but not a conventional one. At times he’s mature and mindful, and at other times the slacker dude persona wins out. This much is clear, though – he truly likes his little brother. Eggers’ other storyline – how he and some friends published a humor magazine for their own demographic – showed him to be inventive and edgy in a fittingly self-indulgent way. He played with a few devices to dig deeper into his own psyche, too. These revelations (by way of other people who had somehow managed to see his soul) were risky from a writing perspective, but worked pretty well I thought. It was like creating a Dr. Melfi to interpret Tony Soprano, but without the bother of making it realistic. When it was all said and done, I liked the book. I’m not entirely sure I’d like Eggers himself, though, in large part because I don’t think he'd like many of us. There were times when he might have taken his dark honesty and caustic wit a little too far.

  21. 4 out of 5

    David

    Mr. Eggers has a genius for two things: finding and publishing some of the more exciting writers working today; turning "Weeee! Weeee! Look at me!! I am beautiful and so good to my little brother!!! Weeeee! Don't you want to touch me?" into 496 pages.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ivan

    OK, I give up @40%. There are some nice ideas, few interesting scenes and fun dialog here and there but it's all buried in cum from all that verbal mastrubation.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Meredith

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Eggers has created something raw, graphic, gritty, something real and it is an emotional sometimes painful read. It is the way in which he deals with grief that appeals to me most. His crazy stream of consciousness writing style is so refreshingly real. At times it seems you are reading his thoughts, unedited. Instead of wallowing in grief for the entire novel he refuses to confront his emotions and whirls around like a frisbee comically avoiding the world. What go I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Eggers has created something raw, graphic, gritty, something real and it is an emotional sometimes painful read. It is the way in which he deals with grief that appeals to me most. His crazy stream of consciousness writing style is so refreshingly real. At times it seems you are reading his thoughts, unedited. Instead of wallowing in grief for the entire novel he refuses to confront his emotions and whirls around like a frisbee comically avoiding the world. What got to me about this book was that while I read about his life after his parents' death, while I laughed at his jokes and listened to his rants, while I tried to make sense of his rambles and his pointless thoughts mentioned it seemed only to avoid thinking of anything important...I could still sense the emotions he was trying to hide. I myself will grow cynical while saddened. Humor can be a great way to cope with grief. When I lost my grandfather and then was unable to attend his funeral, I cried at first...then I laughed until I was crying again. It all seemed so absurd. That I could get on the plane and yet one small weather issue prevented me from saying goodbye to someone so dear to me...Over the next few days I tried to not think about his death, tried to fill my mind with thoughts about anything else, tried to engage myself in other activities, I laughed, I joked with friends...I didn't want to cope with the grief. I ranted about how much life sucked, or what I saw was wrong with this fucked up world. And then once everyone left me to myself I cried. I broke down and screamed and cursed God and everything around me and cried. Only when I finally dealt with his death and accepted it, did I find some sort of peace. This book for me expressed the same raw emotions. It is his awareness of how this is destroying him, his acknowledgment of how angry he is with the world around him for giving him a difficult life that makes this book so appealing. He attempts to poke fun at himself to soften the story, to make it less tragic, maybe to make it seem that he has been able to move on...yet at heart this is simply the heartbreaking story of a young man who has lost his parents and is left to raise his brother alone. At the end after all of the glitz, glitter and shall I say clutter he fills the novel with he finally gets down to what he wanted to express all along... The last several pages of raw emotion tear at you. You see his soul, raw and bleeding. No this isn't a pity me, poor me situation, I believe this is a cry of desperation, a moment of insanity. He has entertained the reader, made a joke even about his situation, presented himself as arrogant and self centered...but I truly believe it was all an act...to protect himself. Because that is what we do as humans, we hide our emotions any way we know how, and we protect ourselves to the best of our ability. It is better to laugh things off than to cry and indicate our weakness and fear of death. My heart broke for him and upon reading the words finally finally finally after his rant about what he was trying to show us, what he was trying to entertain us with and how he had given everything, I knew it was true. This book is incredible. Skim over the middle if needed. He clutters it, I think intentionally however. You will laugh, cry and then think why is he rambling about people running nude on a beach...but it is a wonderful novel and well worth the read. ***excuse the length but I cannot express enough how much this book meant to me and touched my life.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I've been reading this book for about three months now and I just can't bring myself to finish it (and I only have 17 pages left). This is the first book I've read by Dave Eggers, and I've been told not to judge his other works based on this memoir. Memoirs can be tricky beasts after all. In the beginning I really enjoyed this book. Eggers actually did have an interesting life and he tells his story in stream-of-consciousness (sp?), which I found to be really interesting...at first. It was the fi I've been reading this book for about three months now and I just can't bring myself to finish it (and I only have 17 pages left). This is the first book I've read by Dave Eggers, and I've been told not to judge his other works based on this memoir. Memoirs can be tricky beasts after all. In the beginning I really enjoyed this book. Eggers actually did have an interesting life and he tells his story in stream-of-consciousness (sp?), which I found to be really interesting...at first. It was the first time I've read a book written in this style and I found it to be witty. I could actually see myself thinking the same kinds of things he was thinking as he went through different situations. But then, as the book goes on, the whole stream-of-consciousness thing becomes really cumbersome. It blocks the flow of the story. It BORED me to tears. I started skipping pages halfway through because I felt like I'd already read most of what he was saying. My eyes glazed over and all I wanted to do was burn this book or throw it out the window. Anything to be finished with it. I don't know if I can count it as a book I've read, considering I never actually finished it. But I think having read 421 pages should count, don't you? Needless to say, I found this book highly disappointing. You can read its synopsis on Wikipedia and get about the same amount of information there.

  25. 4 out of 5

    jeremy

    anyone that employs the phrase "a bird the color of feces" in their writing should be, for evermore, prohibited from publishing anything. i once heard someone say that dave eggers is the most important writer of his generation, and, thus, lingeringly, i tasted said bird. as atrociously destitute as his works are, and oh god make it stop, his dedication to 826 is quite commendable, and nearly offsets the damage he's effected by writing books in the first place. see also kerouac, jack on the roa anyone that employs the phrase "a bird the color of feces" in their writing should be, for evermore, prohibited from publishing anything. i once heard someone say that dave eggers is the most important writer of his generation, and, thus, lingeringly, i tasted said bird. as atrociously destitute as his works are, and oh god make it stop, his dedication to 826 is quite commendable, and nearly offsets the damage he's effected by writing books in the first place. see also kerouac, jack on the road

  26. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    The book isn't simple- it's complex, and powerful, beautiful, hilarious, and above all: is feels utterly sincere. Obviously the title is hyperbolic.. but it's not completely ironic/innacurate either.. Eggers has a great little thing about Irony/the title being ironic/the book being ironic.. in the added section of the book "Mistakes we knew we were making". In which he's like,"you fuckers don't know what irony means; let me explain"*. It's all true. *This isn't an actual quote from him. He uses pro The book isn't simple- it's complex, and powerful, beautiful, hilarious, and above all: is feels utterly sincere. Obviously the title is hyperbolic.. but it's not completely ironic/innacurate either.. Eggers has a great little thing about Irony/the title being ironic/the book being ironic.. in the added section of the book "Mistakes we knew we were making". In which he's like,"you fuckers don't know what irony means; let me explain"*. It's all true. *This isn't an actual quote from him. He uses profanity in an extremely pleasing, effective way. He says motherfucker and fucker a lot and it works really well. I know it's weird to think that profanity can "work" or not, but it's true.. it COULD make the writing seem overly casual, flippant, and bland. It does not. Because Eggers knows what the fuck he's doing. I liked when the characters broke out of their character-ness and started talking about.. being in the book. Kind of breaking down the third wall. That was also effective; a less skilled writer couldn't have pulled it off. Eggers is a very skilled writer, I think, though it's easy to miss because you're busy being entertained (and having your heart slightly broken) by the events in the book. Also, the relationship between him and his brother is awesome. Maybe I'm biased towards brotherly depictions but I thought that was the thing that held the book together and gave it most of its.. heart. Though it had lots. This book is very funny. Genuinely. Egger's ability to see situations (any situation) as capable of being depicted as both sad/beautiful AND hilarious may be his greatest strength as an author. Memoirs are a difficult genre, I think. To write or read. I think Eggers pulled it off effectively and with great aplomb.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Ashleigh

    This did not do much for me. It was readable but I am very unsure of why it was so loved. I suppose young parenting is not something I want to know more about.

  28. 5 out of 5

    João Carlos

    Dave Eggers e Toph Eggers 6 Estrelas Assombrosas O livro “Uma Obra Enternecedora de Assombroso Génio” do escritor norte-americano Dave Eggers (n. 1970) foi editado em 2000 e é um título absolutamente admirável para uma obra de “não-ficção” – uma história verdadeira contada como “ficção” pelo próprio, sobre a sua família - os pais e irmãos - e os seus amigos. O “início” do livro é desconcertante – “Regras e sugestões para a apreciação deste livro”: 1 – “Não há nenhuma necessidade avassaladora de ler Dave Eggers e Toph Eggers 6 Estrelas Assombrosas O livro “Uma Obra Enternecedora de Assombroso Génio” do escritor norte-americano Dave Eggers (n. 1970) foi editado em 2000 e é um título absolutamente admirável para uma obra de “não-ficção” – uma história verdadeira contada como “ficção” pelo próprio, sobre a sua família - os pais e irmãos - e os seus amigos. O “início” do livro é desconcertante – “Regras e sugestões para a apreciação deste livro”: 1 – “Não há nenhuma necessidade avassaladora de ler o prefácio. A sério.” (Não o li) - 2 – “Não há nenhuma necessidade culminante de ler a secção dos agradecimentos.” (não li) - 3 – “Poderá saltar a página do índice, caso esteja com pouco tempo.” (consultava o índice durante a leitura de cada capítulo) - 4 – “A bem dizer, muitos de vós talvez queiram saltar boa parte do meio, nomeadamente as pág. 264 a 367, que tratam das vidas de pessoas com pouco mais de vinte anos, e é muito difícil tornar-se tais vidas interessantes, mesmo quando elas parecem interessantes àqueles que as vivem nessa época.” (não saltei nenhuma página) - 5 – “Para falar com franqueza, os primeiros três ou quatro capítulos talvez sejam tudo aquilo com que alguns de vós venham a querer incomodar-se. Isso leva-nos até à pág. 153 ou perto disso, o que já é .... uma bela novela.” (não saltei nenhuma página, muito menos um capítulo) - 6 – “Dai em diante o livro é a modos desigual.” (diria genial). O Capítulo I é demolidor, verdadeiramente trágico e triste, Dave o narrador/escritor revela-nos com crueza que "Tiraram o estômago à minha mãe há cerca de seis meses. Por essa altura, não havia muito a remover - já lhe haviam tirado o "resto" dele cerca de um anos antes.... fizeram-na cumprir um calendário de quimioterapia. Mas claro que não lho tiraram todo. Tinham lá deixado parte e aquilo crescera, regressara, pusera ovos... Mas seis meses mais tarde voltara a ter dores...”, numa luta dramática e desigual pela sobrevivência. Mas, “inexplicavelmente” e de um modo “imprevisível” é o seu pai que morre com um cancro fulminante, trinta e dois dias antes, do falecimento “esperado” da sua mãe. Numa família de quatro irmãos, é Dave com vinte anos que se encarrega e “assume” a educação do seu irmão mais novo Toph, de apenas oito anos, uma vez que os irmãos mais velhos Beth e Bill, a primeira da faculdade de Direito e o segundo a viver em Los Angeles, não tinham essa disponibilidade. A vivência e as relações entre os dois irmãos é absolutamente delirante e inesquecível, assente, simultaneamente, no desleixo e na responsabilidade, numa evolução contínua de aprendizagem e companheirismo. Inquestionavelmente as recordações – boas e más – condicionam o estado de espírito de Dave, nomeadamente, o remorso e os equívocos dos relacionamentos familiares interrompidos ou não concluídos, e as relações amorosas e profissionais complexas. Este é um livro sem meio-termo – ou se ama ou se odeia – numa viagem literária inesquecível, pelos devaneios emocionais e pelos infortúnios de Dave, de Toph, dos seus irmãos Beth e Bill, e por um conjunto de personagens secundárias, numa escrita que alterna entre um dramatismo angustiante e um humor caótico. Para terminar “Bom demais para ser verdade” (London Review of Books). E finalmente vou ler o “Prefácio a esta edição” e os “Agradecimentos”.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Punk

    Non-fiction(ish). Dave Eggers' parents are dead, and now he's got to take care of his little brother. This is their sort-of-true story. Because I'm a geek, Dave Eggers endears himself to me just by his modifications to the verso, which include his placement on a sexual-orientation scale of 1 to 10 and the reminder that the military-industrial-entertainment complex really has little power over us as individuals. The book suffers from all the weaknesses Eggers warns us about in the notes: it's self Non-fiction(ish). Dave Eggers' parents are dead, and now he's got to take care of his little brother. This is their sort-of-true story. Because I'm a geek, Dave Eggers endears himself to me just by his modifications to the verso, which include his placement on a sexual-orientation scale of 1 to 10 and the reminder that the military-industrial-entertainment complex really has little power over us as individuals. The book suffers from all the weaknesses Eggers warns us about in the notes: it's self-referential, self-aggrandizing, self-conscious, self-destroying, and, if you'll excuse the redundancy, self-masturbatory. Still, at his best, Eggers has created something huge and moving. At his worst, well, it's still huge. For whatever reasons, usually tears or boredom (tears the first half, boredom the second), I found I could appreciate the book a lot more if I only read twenty pages at a time. When my eyes started to glaze over and I realized I'd been staring at the same page for ten minutes without understanding a word of it, I would gratefully put it down and run away. Sometimes all the epic grandness of life and death and frisbee just takes it out of you. It's a difficult and rambling book to read, but you can learn from it. I learned from it. I learned how to write like Dave Eggers, which is not necessarily a marketable skill, but it amuses me. Eggers probably feels the same way. He's not afraid of language. He writes sentences like: "There has been Spin the Bottle." And for that, I'm glad I read it. Even though it took a month and some serious eye-rolling to get through it. Three stars for its linguistic novelty and for the first half of the book. The second half only gets two stars. Eggers should have told his heartbreaking story and then quit while he was ahead.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Sullivan

    The opening chapter of this (sort-of) memoir blew me away: Eggers' mother is dying of cancer, and the way he describes it is messy and sad and, yes, funny. Both of his parents die within weeks of each other and it's so tragic it's almost unfathomable. I was into it, and then the rest of the book happened...and I just didn't really care about anything that was happening anymore: Eggers, the legal guardian of his young brother, living life as a listless twenty-something in San Francisco in the 90s The opening chapter of this (sort-of) memoir blew me away: Eggers' mother is dying of cancer, and the way he describes it is messy and sad and, yes, funny. Both of his parents die within weeks of each other and it's so tragic it's almost unfathomable. I was into it, and then the rest of the book happened...and I just didn't really care about anything that was happening anymore: Eggers, the legal guardian of his young brother, living life as a listless twenty-something in San Francisco in the 90s. Full disclosure: I was worried going into this that my love for David Foster Wallace would taint my enjoyment of it. That Eggers would inevitably come across to me as the lesser of the two PoMo Daves. Maybe I would have appreciated it more otherwise, but so much of it felt derivative, and I kept thinking to myself that I wish I was reading DFW. I actually really enjoyed Eggers' postmodern gimmicks: the notes and acknowledgements at the beginning of the book, people breaking character in the middle of a conversation to provide meta literary analysis (via Eggers) of what's currently happening. That sense of clever self-awareness is prevalent throughout, and it's smart and it's interesting: it provides a worthy commentary of memoirs as a literary art form, and is a bold achievement of brutally honest self-analysis. These were my favorite parts of the book aside from the first chapter. The thing that's lacking, though (and the thing that DFW really nailed) is sincerity. Eggers may be authentic, sure, but he maintains a comfortable distance from emotion and sincerity. In fact, he's actually pretty insufferable and obnoxious. His own sense of self-importance and self-obsession is on full display. And look, I understand and appreciate that his solipsism is a method of coping with the close proximity he feels to death. I get that he thinks that if he shares his suffering, he may succeed in diluting it and proving to himself that he suffered for a reason. After all, this whole thing is, of course, his attempt at coping with the tragedy of his parents' death. The thing is...I don't really believe any of it. I don't believe him. And so AHWOSG never really transcended for me. It sort of just felt like an exercise in postmodernism for the sake of it, and it's hard as a reader not to feel cheated by that. And honestly, maybe this is what he was going for: maybe we should feel cheated by memoirs. There's a sense of mania throughout, and a strong undercurrent of anger. I appreciate that anger, I even appreciate the stoicism and flippancy. I get it. I just craved some sincerity. Ultimately there wasn't enough here to justify all the time spend enduring his ego.

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