Read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius Online Free - 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
|Title||:||A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius|
|Number of Pages||:||496 pages|
March 20, 2017
**Note: This review was written almost 10 years ago. I would gladly delete it, but it appears some people have engaged in fruitful back-and-forth in the comment thread. I let it stand for the sake of their discussion, but since every once in a while I wake up to an email informing me of how some...
September 12, 2008
look. it's cool to hate on dave eggers.
it's *so cool* to be post-dave-eggers, and talk about how you didn't really like this book all that much, and it's even cooler to totally hate this book. it's like a coolness interview question. "did you like his book?" "yeah, I really did." "well, we can't...
February 23, 2008
Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck. I was reading this book and around page 237 (or was it 327? fuck), I figured it out- he's talking to ME. He wrote this book for me. Dave Eggers looked into the future and saw that I would want to read a self-referential, self-satisfying memoir. He knew that I would be t...
August 07, 2007
I disliked so very much about this book. The grating self-awareness, the oh-I'm-so-clever stream of consciousness asides, the indescribably tedious discussion of his magazine work. But the heart of the book, the story of Eggers and his young brother trying to be each other's whole family after th...
January 15, 2008
as a huge douglas coupland fan, i thought i might enjoy 'a heartbreaking work...' i should've known better. i tried to read 'you shall know our velocity' last year and found it entirely unreadable. i gave up after 200 pages of nonsense. several friends raved about 'ahwoasg,' so i thought, 'ok, i'...
March 21, 2008
I had problems with Dave Eggers for a long time. Having never read a word he'd written, I immaturely thought I had every right to hate him. He was young, successful, and adored by critics. That was enough right there. When it first came out, I would see AHWOSG in the bookstore and grimace at it (...
July 14, 2012
I hated loved was totally frustrated by was sucked into couldn't stand couldn't put down dreaded picking up wanted to like was attacked by wanted to burn finished this book.
Alternative title: A Self-Indulgent Work of Festering Genius
The worst book I couldn't put down; the best book I've ever want...
August 26, 2007
Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave. What can I say? I can sort of remember picking up this book in a bookstore somewhere and reading the first few pages… now, not the first few pages of the story, but I’m talking about the copyright page. Freaking Dave Eggers is writing his novel starting with the copyright...
May 21, 2009
Before I picked up this book I had heard endless tales of how wonderfully smart and funny this book was, how terrific the writing was and how the originality would slap me in the face like a cool wind on a summer's day. They were wrong. I hated this book like The Cure hates happiness.
September 06, 2007
Clearly, this is a polarizing book. All I'll add is that the first time I read it, sometime in the middle of college, I had all of the negative reactions I've read here. It was sometimes funny, and sad and beautiful and all that, but mostly it was an autobiography by an asshole who was full of hi...