A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

by Dave Eggers | Biographies & Memoirs | This book has not been rated.
ISBN: 0330484648 Global Overview for this book
Registered by KiwiKat of Blenheim, Marlborough New Zealand on 12/9/2003
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3 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by KiwiKat from Blenheim, Marlborough New Zealand on Tuesday, December 09, 2003
It's an all-too-rare book that can be said to break new ground, but Dave Eggers's A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius does just that. Rather than take its place in what is now a seemingly unending queue of memoirs by people whose lives have been altered by tragic events, tough times, and difficult lessons, Eggers's book starts a new line altogether, one that very few authors will be allowed to join.
Yes, Eggers lost both his parents to cancer within a matter of months when he was only 22, and yes, it is left to him (with the aid of his older sister and, to a lesser degree, his older brother) to raise his eight-year-old brother. Yes, he and Toph pick up and move from their Chicago-area hometown to the San Francisco Bay region (as though their lives had not already been seen enough disruption), where Eggers fashions for Toph a safe -- which is not to say traditional -- environment. But the reader who buys this book expecting a sort of "Party of Two" soap opera is bound to be disappointed. And those looking for a good cry would be well advised to look elsewhere, too.

Which is not to say that this work is not...well, heartbreaking. But Eggers avoids the bathos so often associated with the "I got it bad and that ain't good" school of memoir-writing. You'll laugh as often as you cry, perhaps more often, and even when Eggers does focus on the grieving and sense of loss he and his siblings naturally endured, his thoughtful, introspective approach avoids navel-gazing. He's as hard on himself as on anyone else (well, almost), and that frank self-assessment serves the book well.

Eggers's deft blend of outrageously amusing tales and implied social commentary is also winning. We follow his progress as he strives to be a part of the San Francisco cast of MTV's "Real World" (a goal he is more than a little conflicted about), as he and a small but intrepid group of friends with little combined experience and even less capital launch a magazine intended to change forever the world of periodical publishing, and even, on occasion, as he tries to get over on a young woman.

But it all works, and in a fashion quite unlike anything you've ever read before. You'll likely begin the book thinking the title an amusing and ironic overstatement, but by the time you've finished reading it, you might just decide, as I did, that it is instead an admirable example of truth in packaging.

Brett Leveridge


Journal Entry 2 by futurecat from Christchurch, Canterbury New Zealand on Saturday, July 15, 2006
Picked up from the Trattorie OCZ when we took alkaline-kiwi to visit today.

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Journal Entry 3 by futurecat from Christchurch, Canterbury New Zealand on Friday, July 03, 2009
What a strange book. I was never sure if the author was being clever, or trying to be clever but just coming off as pretentious, or aware that he was being pretentious and trying to overcome the pretentiousness by being self-consciously pretentious and thus actually being clever, or being aware that by being too cleverly self-conscious about his pretentious cleverness he was actually drifting back towards pretentiousness again, or parodying the kind of authors who write exactly that kind of self-referential self-conscious pretentious cleverness... or perhaps parodying his own attempt to do all of the above.

I'm sure the result works on one of those levels, I'm just not sure which one. The book veers wildly between being entertaining, moving, and just plain irritating. I can't really say I enjoyed it, but I didn't hate it.

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Journal Entry 4 by futurecat at Christchurch, Canterbury New Zealand on Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Released 10 yrs ago (7/14/2009 UTC) at Christchurch, Canterbury New Zealand

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Given to another bookcrosser at tonight's meetup.

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Journal Entry 5 by marcienz from Kimbell, Canterbury New Zealand on Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Brought home for a read. The reviews from previous journallers look promising.

Journal Entry 6 by marcienz from Kimbell, Canterbury New Zealand on Monday, January 04, 2010
This was one of my holiday reads. I didn't get to release it as I wanted to bring it home and check on the Wikipedia if it was as true as it implied.

I did enjoy reading it but should probably have taken the author's advice and only read the first 100 or so pages.

Journal Entry 7 by marcienz at Christchurch, Canterbury New Zealand on Saturday, January 23, 2010

Released 9 yrs ago (1/23/2010 UTC) at Christchurch, Canterbury New Zealand

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I'm giving this to a friend who is visiting from Wellington. We were talking Bookcrossing so I figured I had better encourage her, or her friend.

Journal Entry 8 by marcienz at Darfield, Canterbury New Zealand on Monday, September 20, 2010
This book has come back to me, unread and unjournalled. Will release again one day.

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