The book as a whole is much better than some of the parts. Dave Eggers has written a raw, emotional memoir of the years immediately following the death of both parents. He becomes the guardian of a younger brother and is also trying to begin his own career as a writer. Eggers is witty, sarcastic, pretenious and possibly genius, but this book was not easy for me to read. There were parts that I felt I would never get through and it wasn't until I was finished that I really appreciated what Eggers had accomplished. Several times in telling his story, Eggers goes off on narrative tangents that don't really move the story. These border on stream of conscienciousness, but are just hard to follow, as are some sections of dialogue.
So why does this book have such high praise? Eggers is funny and honest. This memoir succeeds in giving an clear picture of one young adult's life and thoughts as he strives to deal with his grief, become a parent to his much younger brother and carve out a successful career as writer and publisher. Eggers was idealistic enough to think he could do just that.
If you pick up this book make it through the preface and first chapter (it may not be easy) go ahead and finish. i think you will be glad you did.
Loved this book from the first page. Laughed out loud at times. Young man (23) trying to care for his younger brother (9) and atone for family tragedies. It journals the screwups, the successes and how he learns along the way. I loved it, and realized this is all a learning process for him and did not take it all too seriously.
Reading the back cover is like reading the label of a bottle of Dr. Bronner's soap. If that appeals, cross it with trying to read Joyce's Ulysses. Still interested (even if only because you've been told that it's groundbreaking and important but no one makes it through)? Mix in a bit of David Sedaris and Augustin Burroughs (think current versions of The Hotel New Hampshire or things just as disturbing and vaguely autobiographical) and take as necessary. Don't forget, the Washington Post used the word "frothing" in their review. How often does that happen?
Very diffrent, realistic look at the world of 20-somethings, out of college, without the traditional moorings of family. The main character takes custody of his pre-teen brother after the deaths of both parents and tries to give both their lives some normalcy. While doing this, he tries vainly to accomplish something (anything) that could be called noteworthy or meaningful.
funny, raw, and somewhat tragic story of a man in his 20s who, after losing his parents, raises his younger brother. Very entertaining, and at times agonizing, story of surviving hardships and the love of family.
I'm sorry I missed this book when it first came out. I loved it. Dave Eggers writes with a voice that feels slightly younger than mine, but I identified so much with the feeling that we are so alone with no support system, feeling old, getting older, trying to love, sometimes feeling you are using friends and family for your own needs, feeling used yourself, and underneath, not sure what else you can do. The ending was hard, but felt so true.
An unique and superbly-written coming-of-age story. Dave Eggers breaks new ground with his innovations which generally poke fun at the conventions and always at himself. The story IS heart-breaking, but you're chuckling too much to focus on exactly how tough the situation is. I'll never forget him or Toph, his brother. They're in my family now.
This Chicago-born writer's work is very moving, sometimes funny, sometimes frustrating. This book was an adventure in learning, family and personal growth of the author, it is like having a bird's-eye view into his world - if only for the awkward early-adult years.
I guess you will either love or hate this one. Dave Eggers's title pretty much gives you a clue to him. This is apparently a memoir. It got wonderful reviews from some very prestigious groups, people, papers, etc. if what he wrote about is true, then I guess I can understand more about this book. Pain, heartbreak, family ties, and ultimately love and triumph. I liked it. Two friends I lent it to didn't. Decide for yourself.
Very original in voice--a brick on the accelerator of life in an deeply angst-ridden way. Once you get used to the pace of these sentences (that ramble like a cocaine-riddled narrator would...but he's not on coke!), these characters really grew on me. Very sweet and loving, but not typical.
The title kind of says it perfectly...staggering. I never quite understood what he was trying to say...he jumped all over the place in his thoughts. So much so that by the time he completed one I had to re-read the sentence to remember what he was talking about. It was the first time I closed a book and thought, "What a waste of time!" It is truly heartbreaking that his parents died and he raised his little brother, but that wasn't really what the book was about. I found it to be self-indulgent.
I wish that Dave Eggers had a spent a bit less time as a young man trying to be cool. But I love that the book gives us a very clear portrait of who he was at that stage of his life. The voice in this book was its strength, original and energetic.
I liked the story and the author had an intersting perpective; however, it was a little too much "stream of consciousness" for me. I found myself skimming through some of those sections - but not too much because I didn't want to miss any of the actual story!
Dave Eggers' incredible memoir that begins with the sad tale of his parents' battle with cancer when he's young, and follows him into early adulthood in which he relies on his wacky sense of humor and incredible creativity to help him get by. Moments of complete irreverence that are tons of fun, and don't throw off the structure or story of the novel at all.
as much of a book about nothing as ive ever read, but pretty good either way. it was interesting enough to keep me reading, but just borderline boring enough to leave me feeling a little ripped off. some really fantastic principles of life, youth and circumstance are presented, but eggers tendencies to ramble and write in an almost nonsensical sort of way can distract from these fundamental beauties. its a little surprising to me that this is a national bestseller and pulitzer prize finalist. thats not to say that i was disappointed. i just wasn't fantastically impressed.
I know this book is supposed to be defining of my generation, which kind of depresses me. It is an interesting story for the first 100 or so pages, but then it turns into a self-absorbed convoluted tirade which was almost impossible to get through.
This is a hard book to get through. Not because of the content, but because of the lack of content. A 23 year old taking care of his 9 year old brother after the death of their parents could be a fascinating trajectory, however Eggers drags out all of his internal conflict to the point that you lose a bit of empathy for him.
Just because this is how I felt as a WHOLE, I must say that there are sections of his autobiography that is at times hysterical, and at times tear-inducing. There are some wonderful sections of this book, which almost makes it more frusterating that the other parts drag on for so long. Because of how high it's professional praise has been, I had to read it, and it is worth a go, but I don't know that anyone should have their expectations sky-high like I did.
"A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is the moving memoir of a college senior who, in the space of five weeks, loses both of his parents to cancer and inherits his seven-year-old brother. Here is an exhilarating debut that manages to be simultaneously hilarious and wildly inventive as well as a deeply heartfelt story of the love that holds a family together."
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
A heartbreaking work in staggering need of some editing. Apparently, Eggers thinks that just because he self-reflexively points out his shortcomings, it covers up for them. It doesn't. There is a compelling story here, but it's covered up by self-affacing gobbledegook.
Snooze....could only get to page 60. What a waste of time. I have 343 books on my TBR list and this was not interesting, was not well-written, was not going to eat up any more of my time. Perhaps if I were a 20-something, egotistical male, I would find it 'stimulating' but alas, it is not. I wish Mr. Eggers luck in his future writings.