Heather's Reviews > A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
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Nov 28, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, peace-corps
Read in October, 2009

I took a straw poll of my friends who have actually read this book, and I am pretty sure I am in the minority for giving it 4 stars. I loved it. I did. It fell short of 5 stars only because it went on a bit long (always a sign when you reach a certain point and think, man that was a great book! and then turn the page and find that there is still one more chapter)

Yes, it is called a "heartbreaking work of staggering genius" and yes, that is a pompous title, and yes, the author is being ironic, not full of himself. Yes, the entire book is written as if the author THINKS he's that great, but at the same time, you know that he has written it that way to capture the essence of being 20-something and thinking you are that great, when by the time you reach the ripe old age of 30, you know that, in fact, you were an idiot at the time even though if someone had told you that then, you would have laughed at them and their idiocy for not appreciating that you are, in fact, that great. That is how this book is written, and if for that reason alone, I would have loved it.

But more than that, I also somehow...connected to this story. The non-traditionally autobiographical story of two brothers, Dave, older in years but not so in maturity, who is raising his little brother Toph in the wake of their parents' deaths from cancer. I only lost one parent as a child, but in my own experience there was enough cross-over to theirs that I found much more within the subtext of the book than I would have expected.

I even devoured "Mistakes We Knew We Were Making," the 40-page addendum to the paperback edition, just to find out some of the backstory. Within it I also found a footnote by Eggers in which he tries to explain how not ironic the book is meant to be, which in and of itself is an ironic statement. The entire story is like irony pretending not to be irony, in an endless loop.

Just read it and draw your own conclusions. And if you hate it, you might find that you talk just as much about how much you hated it as those of us do who loved it. And that, in my opinion, is half the appeal right there. How many other books can you say that about?
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