9. “A Heart-Breaking Work of Staggering Genius,” Dave Eggers

Remember all those times I said I liked Dave Eggers?

I was badly mistaken.

Listen, friend, I have a lot of paranoid fantasies, too, but funny as I think they are, I don’t write four-hundred-page “memoirs” populated almost entirely with anecdotes that didn’t happen and maddeningly self-conscious (and repetitive!) monologues.

So this (purported) memoir is begins with both of Eggers’ parents dying of different forms of cancer a few weeks apart. Eggers, at twenty-two, agrees to take over raising his eight-year-old brother Toph and Eggers, Toph, and their older siblings Beth and Bill all move from the Chicago suburb where they grew up to California.

This book mostly follows Eggers adventures in raising Toph while attempting to have a normal social life, not be turned in to CPS, and creating a magazine (Might– “power and potential”), in, as I said, some incredibly self-conscious prose. Several times Eggers, inside of dialogue he is “quoting” will start reflecting on how if course this didn’t happen like that, but this makes for a better metaphor or symbolism or is better-paced this way.

All of this basically has the effect of making me constantly flip back to the front cover and wonder if the bit of text proclaiming that the book was short-listed for a Pulitzer is as tongue-in-cheek as the title itself. (By the way, I kept forgetting the title of this and my latest mangling is “A Heart-Stopping Work of Unstopable Whatever.”)

The first half sort of bothered me, but when I got to page 200 and Eggers says in one of those dialogues that didn’t happen that the second half of the book is even more self-conscious, it was all I could do not to shout “more self-conscious than this!” on the train. Because the book started with “Rules and Suggestions for Enjoyment of This Book.” Which would have been funny. If it were not thirty-five pages long.

My recommendation: skip anything where Eggers pretends to be himself (he can’t possibly actually be this awful) and stick with the short stories, which are often pretty lovely.

Page count: 472
Page total: 2,075

PS, Dave:

“Stop Being So Religious”
by Hafiz

What
Do sad people have in
Common?

It seems
They have all built a shrine
To the past

And often go there
And do a strange wail and
Worship.

What is the beginning of
Happiness?

It is to stop being
So religious

Like

That.

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  1. Vikky
    January 7, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Ha!

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