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A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius: A Memoir Based on A True Story

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Well...

"A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" is a strange, confusing, out of order, dizzying ride.... fabulous book! Worth the read, but not for casual readers as you'll want to finish the book in one sitting. Eggers is a "trip".

posted by MontyGeorge on May 6, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Many words,many meaningless except to the writer

I found the book difficult to read because of the writer's self absorbtion. However,it was touching how he showed his love for his young brother and how he cared for him. But all through the book I kept thinking about his "flight of ideas"and overworked imagination. Int...
I found the book difficult to read because of the writer's self absorbtion. However,it was touching how he showed his love for his young brother and how he cared for him. But all through the book I kept thinking about his "flight of ideas"and overworked imagination. Interestingly, we had thoughtful discussions at our book club meeting.

posted by 1948151 on September 19, 2009

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  • Posted May 6, 2010

    Well...

    "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" is a strange, confusing, out of order, dizzying ride.... fabulous book! Worth the read, but not for casual readers as you'll want to finish the book in one sitting. Eggers is a "trip".

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2009

    Many words,many meaningless except to the writer

    I found the book difficult to read because of the writer's self absorbtion. However,it was touching how he showed his love for his young brother and how he cared for him. But all through the book I kept thinking about his "flight of ideas"and overworked imagination. Interestingly, we had thoughtful discussions at our book club meeting.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    a great work of post-postmodern literature!

    This is my all-time favorite book. However, I think knowing about the theories of postmodernism is crucial to understanding his underlying meanings and to appreciating the memoir as a whole. This work is a perfect example of extreme metafiction, playing games with the games that postmodernists play (which makes it post-postmodern), and mocking the typical, self-indulgent memoir. Just as the title says, the memoir is a truly heartbreaking story. You really get to know him, his voice, & his humor.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2009

    Genius

    This book was pure genius. He writes to please himself, not the reader, in my opinion. I think that's the way it should be. While I was reading it, I couldn't help but feel slightly jealous. His words are so captivating that I found myself reading in the hallways from class to class. I hope someday my writing can be as inspiring as his.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 29, 2012

    "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" could more

    "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" could more accurately be titled" A Colossal Pile of Self-Serving Drivel". Eggers focuses on the tragedies that befall him and his family and when that source of sympathy starts to dry up he inserts himself into the tragedies of other people in his life no matter how remote the relationship. It is typical from Mr. Eggers' generation, Gen X, the Slackers, to play the martyr and expect praise for doing the things that most people consider normal. I don't know why this book was selected as a Pulitzer finalist and I would not recommend it to anyone. And that's not even mentioning the horrendous editing - I counted 15 commas in one sentence - this book should give an English teacher a stroke. I hope Eggers' style has changed now that he is writing fiction but I will never know because I will never read him again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 24, 2012

    Ehhhh

    Definitely an interesting read. You need patience to read this book. Eggers is a total scatter-brains. There will be numerous time throughout the book that you will feel like there is no point to the book at all. You will read page after page of nothing. The young Eggers in this memoir can be very self-absorbed and that is very annoying. Some parts are mildly entertaining and his thought process is completely over the top. Seems like a good book for a psychologist to read and then come up with a proper diagnosis.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 8, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Difficult!

    Holy crap, this was a difficult book. The reason I did not give it a 1-star rating was because the basis ideas was awesome. The narrative just shifted too quickly. Look elsewhere.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 2, 2011

    Thought provoking and emotional

    I thought it was a great book that was original and it makes the reader think not only about the text itself but also about their own views on life. Even though Dave's stroy was specific and exact to him he managed to pull the reader into it and made them think about their own life. The book was however very thick and some what of a slow read because of the wide range of descriptions. If read avidly it will easily draw any reader close to the characters and evoke thought and deep emotions from them. It is dramatic but should not be read by anyone who is sensitivce to profanity or depressing thoughts.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2011

    Personal and Engaging

    There are three factors that determine a successful memoir: a unique style, sense of trust, and the ability to relate. The weird thing is, I didn't know these were the factors until after I finished this book. Dave Eggers does everything exactly right. I felt like I had dove into my own psyche, like he knew and felt every one of my own insecurities about myself and if people like me and losing everything important to me someday. I especially related to his stream of consciousness tangents, which would gradually get more and more ridiculous as they progressed. He is irrational, self-centered, and skittish. But he is very aware of it. Eggers does not try to make himself look any better than he is. In fact, he is more than willing to admit that he is not the most virtuous of people, and not everything he is retelling is totally accurate. This only made me trust him more; after all, who hasn't added some embellishments to a story being retold? And what a story it is; losing both parents within a month of each other, and then having to become the guardian of a child, all at the age of 21. Eggers handles his situation with a sense of humor and levity that is inspiring. His writing feels so personal, like reading a friend's diary. I felt his happiness, sadness, and by the end, I felt like we had both come out of a tough time stronger than ever and we could take on the world. The "staggering genius" of this book comes not in his triumph over his unfortunate situation or his unique way of writing (although it certainly has a lot to do with it); rather, it is his ability to describe his flaws and doubts, which are humankind's flaws and doubts too.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 8, 2011

    Definitely recommend

    A definite read. Original, thought-provoking, and definitely self-reflective; even if the writer himself impies that everyone is self-absorbed (he included!). It breaks hearts and warms them as well. I do wonder though, did he ever find his little stuffed bear?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2009

    Not Funny, Not Engaging, A Book for Some Men

    You need to be a certain king of a man to enjoy this book, which must appeal primarily to boys in their teens or early 20's. I saw no humor in this, forced myself to read about 2/3 of the book and then gave myself permission to put it down (I almost never do that). I gave it to a man, but even he didn't enjoy it because he is of the more enlightened branch of the male gender (not gay, but in touch with his emotions). Getting inside the mind of an adolescent male brain was not pleasant nor even enlightening.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 7, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The Author Speaks

    A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers was indeed heartbreaking and staggering. The most impressive part of this work was that the reader never loses sight of the author's voice. Throughout the entire novel there is the constant and consistent voice of the author reliving his early twenties. Even if at times the voice is manic, cynical, or hilariously sarcastic, the voice is always there. It's a book that's good for reading if you like a strong narrative that just pulls you through the whole way easily and the reader has to do hardly any work at all to keep up. The book finds a quirky way of telling the story of this young man's desperate years after losing his parents and being put upon to raise his younger brother and find a way of sustaining them both. In telling about incidents at home or at work the author tells the story almost more like a stream of consciousness that is relatable to everyone. The story is overall endearing as this young man struggles to maintain what he hopes to be a normal life though they are anything but normal. This book is an excellent and moving read. It's fast paced and conversational in that one might not even feel like they're reading, but instead jumping straight into the mind of the author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 14, 2009

    Genuine Style

    Dave Eggers' "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," is a genuinely written novel. Personally, I liked how Dave overly used detail and wrote out his entire thought process. Many would say that Dave rambles throughout the novel, but I see it as his genuine writing style. It is almost as if Dave has A.D.D. and O.C.D. due to his "what-if" nature of thinking. As for the plot, I think that anyone could have been in Dave's shoes, but wouldn't have dealt with it as nonchalant as he had. Even though this book dwindles around the fiction section, I believe most of the events actually happened. The fact that the novel is more or less what Dave went through captivated me, and made me realize how deep of a situation it was and how he could look back on it and make it entertaining and not-so-depressing.

    I rated this book 4 out of 5 stars, because of the dry spots within the middle of the novel. Even though the book is a good read, I don't think a discussion should be solely based on it.

    -Jonathan Allen

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Work of heartbreak and recovery ....

    Dave Eggers writing is lyrical and grabbing. Granted it took me a few weeks longer to read this than I intended but I am not a fast reader to begin with. I was recommended this book by a friend and found the first few chapters ripe with emotion. He writes about his experience and you feel connected with him because it is something that we all can relate to. The emotion and anger and frustration and almost psychotic rhetoric are very believable (cause it happened) and moving. The book starts and ends strong with the middle getting a little boring. However, the author realizes this and prefaces the book by telling the reader to skip these pages.

    Over all, I was very satisfied and would recommend this to anyone who is looking for an author who can paint beautiful music with type.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 9, 2009

    A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

    I thought that this book was alright. I thought that it was annoying when he would go off on random rants for several pages at a time. I could relate to the story of losing loved ones to cancer. This is the type of story you read for a deep meaning. Its not the type of story you can just pick up and read for entertainment.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    It is a hearbreaking work. Will you think its a work of staggering genius?It truly depends on the reader.

    Let me start off by informing you that I read this book for a school assignment. I cannot think of any other reason I would have picked it up unless someone recommended it. Nobody I know is an avid reader so I feel very fortunate I got stuck with Dave Eggers. Our teacher gave us a brief synopsis of the books and when she covered A.H.W.o.S.G. I thought to myself "steer clear of that one, it sounds incredibly depressing". Well needless to say that was the work I was assigned, and I enjoyed every page. Dave eggers memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, has an intricately designed plot alternately layering the sad and the dismal with the bright and the cheerful. The hopeless optimism that shines through the characters is somewhat uplifting (was it inspiring? not really but I didn't feel as negative about my life, like "it could be worse"). I have read novels, even memoirs, where the protagonist overcomes the odds so that isn't why I liked it. (In fact if you are looking for the cheerful story aforementioned, you should look elsewhere) No, what I liked and can really respect is an author who does not take themselves seriously. I don't mean too seriously, I mean seriously. Read the 60 or so pages of the preface and you'll understand what I mean. If and when you come across an author who advises you to skip large portions of their own work let me know. I could not read this book in public because I found myself laughing hysterically or even nodding, like to acknowledge I understood what he was trying to say. This leads me to my first gripe. It is at time difficult to understand. This is a re-read each page type of book, I had to go back and read entire passages that were unclear. This book is not concise, it is actually pretty manic and it tends to spiral Yeah his sense of humor is out there, you either like it or you don't. My second complaint is that unless you honestly do well at trivial pursuit a few culture references will go right over your head. I got enough of them but I had Google everything else. So I liked the memoir. I think if I wrote a legitimate book it would probably be similar. I would recommend it, but you really have to be patient, as in it takes a while for the sunnier side to appear.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2009

    A Heartbreking Work of Staggering Genius

    I just finished this book for a school project. I feel like everything bad has happened to the author; from losing both parents at a young age, to raising a brother as a son, having friends deal with suicide attempts, and struggling at work. he has a very odd sense of humor and tends to ramble on random subjects often and for a while which was a little irritating thoughout the book. It did keep my interest as far as wondering what might happen next to him and toph and where they might end up. Overall i wouldn't call it a bad book. If you picked it up to read, you probably wouldn't regret it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2014

    Changed my life

    Okay,maybe it didn't change my life, but it is a book that I will always love. A lot of people are calling Eggers self absorbed, amongst other things. That's the point. He placed a lot of thought into this book. I was actually assigned this book for one of my English classes. There was a user saying that the book had many editing errors. Just because there are a lot of commas, does not mean that it is wrong. It just is not visually pleasing. This book is funny, sad, confusing, and funny. This is there one time that you really do need to read every page, including their copyright. Eggers likes control, and I think that it is pretty easy to see. Word of advice, remember that not everything is exactly true. I call this genre fictional nonfiction. Enjoy.

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  • Posted April 28, 2014

    Dave Eggers¿s (kind of memoir) A Heartbreaking Work of Staggerin

    Dave Eggers’s (kind of memoir) A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is a breathing taking insight of the mind of a twenty-something in the midst of a terrible situation. After both of his parents passed away (a week apart), twenty-one year old Dave Eggers takes in his younger brother, Toph, and moves to California. The novel records the brothers and Eggers’s attempts to balance out early adulthood and being a guardian. The novel is written unlike anything I have even read. It’s a stream of conscious and run-on sentence after run-on sentence—as if Eggers sat down and wrote every thought that came to mind. Sometimes, the narrator will go off in a tangent in the middle of a conversation. Some may find this way of writing frustrating, but I think the memoir is less about the specific situation rather than what Eggers is thinking and feeling. It’s like a dive into his psyche and you are invited. So, you aren’t going to find a lot of dialogue but lots and lots of narration. However, it is written very poetically, smoothly, and delicately, chronicling the very realistic moments like Eggers trying to enjoy a night out while inwardly panicking that the babysitter he has hired may actually be busy murdering his little brother. Eggers’s paranoia of being a poor guardian really shines throughout the novel and is a highlight. He is constantly worried by the idea that any action he takes would psychologically destroy his little brother, a behavior that new parents must have, especially if they read a lot of baby books. He constantly tries to be the upstanding ‘new-age’ type parents but he never really stops being a brother. Because that’s the thing—he is still 21. Yet, Eggers drops the phrase “we are owed” (as in, they need to have nice things happen to them since their situation is so terrible) numerous times throughout the beginning and does have moments of pretentiousness, yet it is all self-aware. Eggers’s writing is remarkable as he writers himself as another character in a novel, showing layers of his own selfish and thoughtful behavior in the midst of a very sad situation.  One of my favorite framing devices he uses is a fake interview, which he uses to set up his hometown and the place they grew up in order to explain his family’s background (like, the lack of diversity in his school affects how he sees the sudden diversity of California). It’s a great part. It’s so great. I loved it. I loved this book. Read this book. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2013

    Disarmingly Charmingly human

    Fantastic. Finally finished this. Must must read he's a true storyteller. And with a style id kill to have a fraction of.

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