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A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by…

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

by Dave Eggers

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
13,935218257 (3.65)222
Title:A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Authors:Dave Eggers
Info:Vintage (2001), Paperback, 485 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:California, memoir

Work details

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


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» See also 222 mentions

English (215)  Portuguese (1)  Norwegian (1)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (219)
Showing 1-5 of 215 (next | show all)
Far too much solipsism for my liking. I know that's his schtick, but it's not my thing. ( )
  xiaomarlo | Apr 17, 2019 |
DNF. Pretentious. ( )
  kemilyh1988 | Apr 12, 2019 |
Given, NOT read
  Egaro | Apr 6, 2019 |
Digital audio read by Dion Graham

Water the Flowers!

I had heard about this memoir when it first came out and had it on my TBR ever since. I was intrigued by a book written by a young man who took on the responsibility for raising his much younger brother after both their parents died within a few weeks of one another. I expected some tragic, emotionally charged scenes and some sense of enlightenment or inspiration. I read another book by Eggers and really enjoyed it, so when the audio finally came in from the library, I was pleased to finally get to this on our long drive to Texas.

It’s clear that Eggers is intelligent. Obviously the circumstances that resulted in his guardianship of his baby brother were tragic, and every older sibling’s nightmare. I should have read the reviews by Goodreads members before I decided to finally read / listen to the book.

I found Eggers self-absorbed, immature, irresponsible and totally lacking in any insight. I really pity his little brother who might have been better off raised by wolves.

The most entertaining part of the book is the forward/preface/acknowledgments/copyright notice … which on the audiobook are read at the very end. Had this come first, I might have gone into the book expecting something more on the lines of satire, and (while satire is not my favorite genre) had different expectations and a different take on the work. But I went into it expecting a memoir of a tragic and difficult time in a young man’s life, and some reflection / insight / growth in character as a result. Too bad for me. Well, the preface,etc gets him one star.

Dion Graham does a reasonably good job reading the audiobook. Not his fault that the F bomb is used so often or that the writer gives us a manic narrative. (Not helped by my decision to listen at double speed to get through the 13 hours faster.) ( )
  BookConcierge | Dec 12, 2018 |
The first part of the book was great. Heartbreaking and funny. I wanted to keep reading about Dave & Toph. But the second half devolves into this analytical rant that was really off putting. Nevertheless a book worth reading. ( )
  MeeshN_AZ | Oct 18, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 215 (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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Eggers, Daveprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pardoen, IrvingTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First of all: I am tired. I am true of heart! And also: You are tired. You are true of heart!
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.
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Through the small tall bathroom window the December yard is gray and scratchy, the trees calligraphic.
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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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 simultaneously hilarious and wildly 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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