- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
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.