Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius - Dave Eggers

The Basics: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers, 2001, 437 pages, paperback

Where I found it: I ran out of books on a day the library was closed (Quelle horreur!) so I had to rummage around in Greg's section of the bookshelf.

What's it about?: Dave Eggers is now the editor of the literary journal McSweeney's. This book is his memoir about his formative twenties. Both of his parents die within a few weeks of each other and he and his sister are left to care for their 7 year old brother. Eggers has to cope with being a father to his brother as well as becoming an adult and making something of his life.

Did I like it?: This book isn't like any I have ever read before. While reading it I kept having to say to myself: "This really happened to someone" - it was kind of surreal. The book is written in a quirky style that I mostly enjoyed. However, sometimes Eggers uses stream of consciousness narration. That helped to convey the sense of urgency and angst that the character was feeling, but the lack of punctuation drove me insane! Overall however, I thought it was a pretty good book.

Will you like it?: While I like this book I feel it takes a pretty specific sort of person to enjoy it. You need to have the struggles of someone in their twenties trying to make it fairly fresh in your mind or else Eggers will sound a bit like a whiny and self-entitled Gen-Xer (which is he, but in a good way). It is also a fairly literary book and is not for the John Grisham set.

But don't take my word for it: A collection of literary reviews from, some reader reviews that reflect the love-it-or-hate-it nature of the book, one from the UK's Richmond Review, one from the Guardian, and finally one from Salon written by Dan Savage of all people.

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