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A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (original 2000; edition 2001)

by Dave Eggers

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13,022200175 (3.66)208
Member:lyzrdpye
Title:A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Authors:Dave Eggers
Info:Vintage (2001), Edition: First Paperback Edition, Paperback, 485 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:**
Tags:audiobook

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A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (2000)

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English (196)  Portuguese (1)  Norwegian (1)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (200)
Showing 1-5 of 196 (next | show all)
I tried...for all the acclaim this book has had for a number of years now, I gave reading it my best shot. I managed to get through maybe a third of it?. Perhaps the genius (pardon the pun) of the book was in the second half and I did myself a disfavor, but I couldn't stop thinking that the only reason to continue was because of how great it is supposed to be. And that's not good enough for me.
  ShelBeck | Jun 24, 2016 |
I am loathe to admit that I read this entire book cover to cover, and initially thought it to be brilliant; since then (2001) I've come to recognize that Dave Eggers is perhaps one of the most overrated writers in recent history in that, while he weaves a good tale, he falls into the trap of the self-congratulatory conclusion: and look, now I'm a Great Big Writer with Fabulous Reviews!!! Yay me!!! (Augusten Burroughs and Elizabeth Wurtzel often commit the same sin.) Eggers is best left to editing the "Best American Non-Required Reading" series, which he does quite well, and leave the memoir alone... (Actually, I'm thinking that after the James Frey debacle that the memoir genre should be temporarily abandoned until it can recover its credibility.)

That being said, I do think that the first 50 pages, in which Eggers parodies the initial acknowledgments/dedication pages of many books is pretty ingenious, and for that reason, pick up a copy at the library and read until the first mention of MTV's "The Real World". Then put the book down and step quietly away. ( )
  anna_hiller | Jun 22, 2016 |
Just wasn't my cup of tea. ( )
  add_dragon | Mar 26, 2016 |
A friend gave me a well-worn copy of this book after my dad died. I was in so much grief I honestly don't remember much detail about it, but I know that I finished it, and that somehow it both kept me from thinking about my dad too much while also helping me work through his death. So although I could not tell you the plot of this book to save my life, I remember putting it down and thinking, "I'm sorry this is over, that was a great book." ( )
  BraveNewBks | Mar 10, 2016 |
This was a difficult book for me. I have ADD, and often find that I have "missed" something in a book that I am reading. Generally that means that I was distracted by something while I was reading it, and didn't actually fully process that portion of the story. Because of this, I tend to prefer books with straightforward plots that drive towards a clear, satisfying ending (just look at the number of mystery and suspense novels in my "Read" list to see how true that really is).

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is definitely not a straightforward story. The swoops and turns of both the story and the printed format was difficult for me to follow. And yet, I persevered mostly because I really felt connected to the two brothers, and wanted to know what their fate would be.

I am at the older end of the Gen Xers, and Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis was released when I was halfway through college. Although it was over the top, that book felt like it was describing the reality of being a young adult at the time. In the same way, I felt like A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius was describing a reality that I was not experiencing, but that I completely believed was the reality of life as a young adult of the time. ( )
  magerber | Feb 22, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 196 (next | show all)
''A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius'' is a book of finite jest, which is why it succeeds so brilliantly. Eggers's most powerful prose is often his most straightforward, relying on old-fashioned truth telling for its punch.
 
Dave Eggers's new book, ''A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius,'' is part autobiography, part postmodern collage, a novelistic ''memoir-y kind of thing'' that tells the sad, awful, tragic story of how the author's mother and father died within weeks of each other and how he became a surrogate parent to his 8-year-old brother, and tells it with such style and hyperventilated, self-conscious energy, such coy, Lettermanesque shtick and such genuine, heartfelt emotion, that the story is at once funny, tender, annoying and, yes, heartbreaking -- an epic, in the end, not of woe, though there's plenty of that too, but an epic about family and how families fracture and fragment and somehow, through all the tumult and upset, manage to endure.
 
Though the book is marred by its ending--an unsuccessful parody of teenage rage against the cruel world--it will still delight admirers of structural experimentation and Gen-Xers alike.
added by Shortride | editPublishers Weekly
 
Eggers delivers a worthwhile story told in perfect pitch to the material.
added by Shortride | editLibrary Journal, Eric Bryant
 
Eggers' seemingly flippant, but piercingly observant style, allows hilarity to lead the way in a very personal and revealing recounting of the loss of his parents.
added by Shortride | editBooklist, Grace Fill
 

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Dave Eggersprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pardoen, IrvingTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
First of all: I am tired. I am true of heart! And also: You are tired. You are true of heart!
Dedication
Change and contentment via together-rising boats; The reckless encouragement of blue sky research; A mountain for every little person; A flood for New York.
First words
Through the small tall bathroom window the December yard is gray and scratchy, the trees calligraphic.
Quotations
We feel that to reveal embarrassing or private things, we have given someone something, that, like a primitive person fearing that a photograph will steal his soul, we identify our secrets, our past and their blotches, with our identity, that revealing habits or losses or deeds somehow makes one less of oneself.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375725784, Paperback)

Dave Eggers is a terrifically talented writer; don't hold his cleverness against him. What to make of a book called A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius: Based on a True Story? For starters, there's a good bit of staggering genius before you even get to the true story, including a preface, a list of "Rules and Suggestions for Enjoyment of This Book," and a 20-page acknowledgements section complete with special mail-in offer, flow chart of the book's themes, and a lovely pen-and-ink drawing of a stapler (helpfully labeled "Here is a drawing of a stapler:").

But on to the true story. At the age of 22, Eggers became both an orphan and a "single mother" when his parents died within five months of one another of unrelated cancers. In the ensuing sibling division of labor, Dave is appointed unofficial guardian of his 8-year-old brother, Christopher. The two live together in semi-squalor, decaying food and sports equipment scattered about, while Eggers worries obsessively about child-welfare authorities, molesting babysitters, and his own health. His child-rearing strategy swings between making his brother's upbringing manically fun and performing bizarre developmental experiments on him. (Case in point: his idea of suitable bedtime reading is John Hersey's Hiroshima.)

The book is also, perhaps less successfully, about being young and hip and out to conquer the world (in an ironic, media-savvy, Gen-X way, naturally). In the early '90s, Eggers was one of the founders of the very funny Might Magazine, and he spends a fair amount of time here on Might, the hipster culture of San Francisco's South Park, and his own efforts to get on to MTV's Real World. This sort of thing doesn't age very well--but then, Eggers knows that. There's no criticism you can come up with that he hasn't put into A.H.W.O.S.G. already. "The book thereafter is kind of uneven," he tells us regarding the contents after page 109, and while that's true, it's still uneven in a way that is funny and heartfelt and interesting.

All this self-consciousness could have become unbearably arch. It's a testament to Eggers's skill as a writer--and to the heartbreaking particulars of his story--that it doesn't. Currently the editor of the footnote-and-marginalia-intensive journal McSweeney's (the last issue featured an entire story by David Foster Wallace printed tinily on its spine), Eggers comes from the most media-saturated generation in history--so much so that he can't feel an emotion without the sense that it's already been felt for him. What may seem like postmodern noodling is really just Eggers writing about pain in the only honest way available to him. Oddly enough, the effect is one of complete sincerity, and--especially in its concluding pages--this memoir as metafiction is affecting beyond all rational explanation. --Mary Park

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:47 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A memoir of a college senior who, in the space of five weeks, loses both of his parents to cancer and inherits his eight-year-old brother. Here is an exhilarating debut that manages to be simltaneously hilarious and wildily inventive as well as a deeply hearfelt story of the love that holds a family together.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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