Books I Loathed discussion

Loathed Titles > A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering BS

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message 1: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:35AM) (new)

Kate (katiebobus) | 136 comments Mod
Okay, I hate Dave Eggers, like all good people. But I tried. I really tried. And I think I would have been very interested in the story of Dave raising his brother had Dave not felt compelled to load down even the copyright page with his little nonsensical po-mo spoutings. I did not want to read a memoir about how clever Dave Eggers thinks he is. Yes, I know: the title SHOULD have given this away, but really I expected a fragment of humility. Is Dave's true life story so banal that he needs to pepper it with unrelated, faux-stream-of-conscious sentence fragments? I am forced to assume so, because I don't have time to wade through his brain droppings hoping for some kind of redemption.

message 2: by christina (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:35AM) (new)

christina I tried too. for about 2 pages.

message 3: by Clare (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:36AM) (new)

Clare | 3 comments I read the whole dreadful thing, somehow. I really wanted to know the story of his family, the tragic deaths of his parents and his experiences with his young brother, but weeding these threads out from the heaps of aren't-I-clever meanderings took all the enjoyment out of what could have been a good story. I kind of resent experimental fiction when it comes to the actual structure of the words on the page - see this book and also the horrid "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close". I don't really buy that any of the people doing this kind of this is actually so clever and so different that they are above the use of regular forms. Peppering a work with upside down words, sudden random images, etc., to me demonstrates that the writer is not skilled enough to get his point across within traditional constraints of formatting.

message 4: by Barbara (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:36AM) (new)

Barbara Domue | 2 comments call me the literary optimist, but i liked this book. it was no easy task..i found myself skipping words, sentences, and sometimes whole paragraphs--but I made it through. And I don't know that I would go as far as staggering genius, but there were some really great moments for me, like when he was talking about frisbee. I think that when he isn't trying to show off with some avant garde technique, or saturating his words with his arrogance, he finds some really beautiful moments. I also noticed that with every one of his novels, I have really had to fight my way through it, and ended up liking it as a whole at the end of the day. Have you read his book of short stories? How We Are Hungry. If you haven't, I would recommend it, because I think it will change your mind, at least slightly, about his work. All of the techniques that make you want to throw the book out the window are much less offensive in short story form.

message 5: by Jenny (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:36AM) (new)

Jenny (thejencanread) Though I didn't love this book, I certainly didn't hate it either. There's a bookstore that just opened up in Decatur, GA (Wordsmith's Books, if you're interested), and it's owned by a guy in his thirties and his marketing director is a kid I went to college with. The store set up a table with a sign that said "Selections for your Hipster Book Club," with Franny and Zooey, Love is a Mix Tape, some Amy Sedaris and some Bret Easton Ellis, and of course some Dave Eggers. Only (and I think this is my point) You Shall Know Our Velocity instead of Heartbreaking Work. Heartbreaking Work is way too mainstream now to be considered for Hipster literary ingestion. These kids would have already read the book. Like, years ago.

I feel like this book is an introduction into the kind of literature that it wants to be. It's waaay too self-referential and waaay too aren't-I-clever for experienced(? I guess that' the word I'm looking for) readers. I enjoyed it when I read it 2 years ago, when I didn't get to read anything for fun because I was still in college reading stuffy books on Galileo. It was one of the first books I read as an "adult" with a newfound appreciation for reading analytically, and it did it's job. But I don't know that'd I ever go back to it. It's certainly not a "modern classic" that I'd consider reading once a year or anything.

message 6: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:36AM) (new)

Kate (katiebobus) | 136 comments Mod
Ha, "Selections for your Hipster Book Club!" I love it.

message 7: by Emily (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:41AM) (new)

Emily (bouree) This book wasn't good, but it was readable. I had to read it for a contemporary American fiction class. I found it neither heartbreaking nor staggering. It makes me wonder why books like this can get published while other good manuscripts are ignored. I do know that Eggers is capable of recognizing good literature and is a decent editor of anthologies. I recommend this book to no one.

message 8: by Alex (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:42AM) (new)

Alex (alexinmadison) | 64 comments I'm SOOOO glad that others couldn't get through this either. I read about 1/3 of it before I put it down never to be opened again. I keep thinking that, someday, I might read it... but then I remember how unbearably self-important it seemed and how clever Eggers seemed to think he was and I promptly come to my senses. It languishes on my bookshelf - yet another in the series of "books that the rest of the world thought were masterpieces and I thought were dreck."

message 9: by Robin (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:42AM) (new)

Robin | 4 comments I volunteer at a literacy bookstore Friday afternoons, and last week we got five(!)of this book all at once, I wonder if the store will ever get rid of them.(this is my way of saying I couldn't get past the the second page and it seems most people couldn't either.)I mourn for the trees that got turned into paper for books like this.

message 10: by Alex (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:42AM) (new)

Alex (alexinmadison) | 64 comments Sherri - LOL!! You're killing me.

Actually, I do BookCrossing so all Books-That-I-Did-Not-Finish tend to get released into the wild. Then some poor, unsuspecting soul can love it more than I did.

message 11: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:42AM) (new)

The whole thing drove me crazy it was so irritating and convoluted.

message 12: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:43AM) (new)

Laura | 29 comments I heard him speak at a breakfast, and to be honest, I was so unimpressed that I avoided purchasing the book... I'm very glad I did!

Alex's releasing into the wild all the books he did not finish bothers me: if *I* couldn't read it, who am I to inflict it on others?

message 13: by Alex (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:43AM) (new)

Alex (alexinmadison) | 64 comments Lazygal - but, in the case of Heartbreaking..., most people loved it. As with White Teeth and Life of Pi. I was in the minority. Who am I to force my opinion on others? Let each make their own determination. (Except for the book "Jack the Ripper: Case Closed" which was so bad that I literally threw it in the garbage.)

message 14: by Hope (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:43AM) (new)

Hope | 3 comments When I saw a group about books people hated, I thought, "I need to get on there to declare to the world how much I hate Dave Eggers," and then lo and behold I click on the group and the first discussion is on that very topic. I HATED this book. I can't imagine why anyone liked it. I wanted to punch Eggers in the throat. Thankfully a friend of a friend swore that every one he knew loved this book, so I pawned my copy off on him.

Robin, I love the comment about all the poor trees that got turned into this book.

message 15: by Joey (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:43AM) (new)

Joey | 6 comments I found this book utterly irritating. I never looked forward to picking it up. Every time I read a few pages I felt annoyed. I was also glad to see that I was not the only one that couldn't continue.

message 16: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:44AM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) Alex, I couldn't stand Life of Pi. I read it some years ago and so I don't really remember it all that well now, but I do remember finishing it and looking up and thinking "That's the payoff? That's the big message of the book? That's been said a thousand times before, better than this guy said it." And it won a Booker Prize! And every single person I know raved about it! Totally went over my head completely.

message 17: by Michael (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:50AM) (new)

Michael I never made it through the introduction. I think that I ran out of 'benefit of the doubt' pretty quickly.

message 18: by Robin (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:54AM) (new)

Robin | 4 comments What is "BookCrossing"? Sounds like something I should know about. This is a hint by the way... Robin

message 19: by Alex (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:54AM) (new)

Alex (alexinmadison) | 64 comments

basically, you enter a book into the system. The system assigns the book a "BCID number", thus making the book trackable. You then "release" the book by either giving it to someone or leaving it around for someone to find. Ostensibly, the next person will then visit the site, enter the BCID, and journal where they found the book, what they thought of it, etc. and then they'll release the book to the next person. It's a cool system.

One tip, you do have to explain what bookcrossing is when you release a book (including providing the BCID) however, you don't have to buy the bookcrossing "official" stickers, etc. You can make your own very easily. Check out the forums for tips on releasing books.

message 20: by nikki (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:54AM) (new)

nikki I think the only people who can truly love this crap are incredibly naive, depressed, emo college kids who feel that to be vague, boring, and sometimes confusing is beautiful.

message 21: by Mary Ellen (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:56AM) (new)

Mary Ellen (mary_iatrop) | 24 comments One thing that must be said for Dave Eggers - his 826 stores are doing wonderful things for young readers and writers. Check out for more details, there may be one in a city near you!

That being said, I have to agree with all of you that Eggers' writing is one of those things that you read for the bragger's right of saying you've read it, rather than to enjoy reading it.

message 22: by David (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:57AM) (new)

David (david_giltinan) | 58 comments Agree that "heartbreaking work of staggering genius" was irritating beyond belief.

But Eggers has redeemed himself somewhat in my book (no pun intended) with the wonderful series of anthologies "Best American Nonrequired Reading". I own all of them from 2002 through 2006 and there isn't a dud in the bunch.

So there's that, to mitigate the hatred just a little bit.

message 23: by Ann M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:03PM) (new)

Ann M | 39 comments I cut him slack on the goofy-clever tone of voice because he actually took care of his younger brother. How many college kids would/could do that? It couldn't have been easy -- suddenly bereft, and laden with responsibility. Way to grow up fast. I kept thinking of the reality behind the tone, thinking his sense of humor was probably what helped him survive.

message 24: by Christy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:04PM) (new)

Christy During my entire time in undergrad this book was the only assigned book in my English major classes that I did not finish. I don't remember hating it exactly - rather I quickly ascertained that all I needed to know about it (the style, etc.) was contained in the beginning and that I wouldn't get anywhere new with it.

message 25: by Tamar (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:05PM) (new)

Tamar If you loved to hate "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" you must read "You Shall Know Our Velocity" (the second edition)....

message 26: by Xysea (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:05PM) (new)

Xysea  (xysea) See, this is on my 'to-read' list and I've checked it out of the library. This group is having a reverse effect on me. Instead of making me run from books others loathe, I'm finding myself curious to see if they're 'really that bad.' lol

message 27: by Stephanie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:14PM) (new)

Stephanie | 4 comments Finally, I feel like I'm home on Goodreads...and it took a camaraderie of hatred to do it. Like others, I tried, really I did, but it was horrible! I even wanted to go back to Goodwill, where I bought it used, and demand my $1.00 back.

message 28: by Kasey (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:15PM) (new)

Kasey | 1 comments So glad to know I'm not alone on this. I HATED that book. I really, really wanted to like it. I bought it in Hardcover in college when I was completely broke, I wanted to like it so much. Imagine my utter disappointment (mixed with relief) when I finished it. The premise is something I would completely fall for but the writing - oh, the writing. I get it. You're intelligent, perhaps far more intelligent than I, but I don't want to be reminded of that when I have paid to read your book. If you introduce a new theme or a unique vision, perhaps just a twist on an ageless tale, I will know you are intelligent without you having to drill it into my head.
This book irritated me so much, I reconsidered dating someone who owned and defended it. Luckily, I overlooked it and we are very happy - but the book got "lost" in the move.

message 29: by Nate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:15PM) (new)

Nate (innatejames) | 11 comments Said Mr. Eggers in a bar to a friend a couple days before he started Heartbreaking Genius of Staggering Work:

"Let's write a book to get chicks."

I think John Mayer and James Blunt had similar conversations when they wrote their songs.

message 30: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:16PM) (new)

Kate (katiebobus) | 136 comments Mod
Kasey, I like a girl with standards!

message 31: by Ruth (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:16PM) (new)

Ruth (ruthdeb) | 2 comments I'm so glad to see so many other people hated this book. I was afraid I didn't "get it." Someone whose opinion I respect said that the book was just mocking itself, and I had to be in on the irony, and I felt all dumb.

Crazy thing is, I'm reading What is the What, by the same author, and it's wonderful! When I saw the author was Dave Eggers, I though, "It can't be that Dave Eggers.

message 32: by Bud (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:17PM) (new)

Bud | 1 comments Exactly how I feel. I really don't get the Eggers thing. "A potentially heartbreaking story made banal by ego" might have been a better title.

message 33: by Jordan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:17PM) (new)

Jordan | 10 comments I try hard to think of a book I hate more than this one, but I really can't. It's just so terrible on every level, from the smugness of its prose, to the banality of its story, to the misappropriation of devices used far more effectively elsewhere (and long before Eggers: see one Raymond Federman).

message 34: by Katie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:51PM) (new)

Katie | 3 comments Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaamen. And as many others have said, I REALLY tried! Just. Couldn't. Do. It.

message 35: by Nikki (new)

Nikki Boisture I'm feeling very lonely here, because I actually liked this book. (I was wondering if I should even admit it...)
Dave Eggers wrote this book a few years after the events in the book happened. He wrote it with an understanding of what an egomaniac he was in those day, or at least that's what I picked up on. I kind of thought his sort of retrospective musings of who he had been were funny. I look back at myself and at the things I did and thought at 21 and I wonder "who WAS that person?"

I do wonder about that family though. There were two other older siblings who would have been much better equiped to take in the little brother after their parents' deaths. That fact bothered me throughout the whole book.....

message 36: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie | 14 comments Eggers came to speak at a literary event and refused to even *talk* about A Heartbreaking Work because he claims to be embarrassed by it. I'm sure his subsequent work is much more staggering. Staggeringly jejeune, that is.

message 37: by Clare (new)

Clare | 53 comments Nikki, I liked the basic premise of this book: a young guy who had to become the caretaker of his younger brother and tried hard in his bumbling way to be a good parent. I felt the love throughout the story. I speed read through some of the passages but I still loved the thought of them sliding down the hallway in their socks, trying to get fruit in their diet every day, and struggling to make a home. I think maybe the title was offputting but it reminded me of the feeling we sometimes have when we are in our 20's - that the world is our oyster and everything we do is incredibly important.

So you're not alone. I liked the book too.

message 38: by Tracy (new)

Tracy | 5 comments hey there nikki, don't feel too lonely, i am mostly puzzled by the amount of hate expressed for this book. i enjoyed this book, for some true moments and insights about grief and love and responsiblity that still pop up in my thoughts years after i read it. and the clinton/topher section is just funny and a capsule of 90s america. so why does everyone take the books' flaws so damn personal?

haven't really been able to read his other work, or his shorts, but i don't hold it against him. cuz through mcsweeney's, i've been exposed to several authors who deserve it. there are a bunch of kids across the country who can attend workshops and have their opinion voiced thanks to the 826 workshops. and 'what is the what?' has brought an important story into the public conciousness - Sudan's. these are Eggers works. i think he has balls and i applaud his energy. at least he gets off his ass.

and really, the title should tell you everything - self concious navel gazing from an ironic standpoint. if you can't stomach that, why bother?

message 39: by Katie (new)

Katie | 6 comments Well, I don't know about everyone else, but my problem was that the "self-conscious" part of the navel gazing didn't seem self-conscious much so that it seemed a little difficult to buy the idea that the standpoint was ironic. The ironic tone and self-deprecation seemed a thin veil for someone who truly was self-obsessed, self-important and narcissistic.

And let's be fair...most people are self-obsessed, have an overblown sense of their importance in the world and are completely narcissistic (including myself)...that doesn't mean he was a mean, horrible person who didn't take care of his younger brother. It's a complex world. Real human beings can be generous and narcissistic at the same time.

If Dave Eggers took care of his brother, good for him. He didn't have to write a book about his experiences. But he did, and leaves his work open for critique.

message 40: by RJ (new)

RJ (bountifulflummox) | 7 comments ok dude. the fact that you have lumped together heartbreaking work of staggering bs with latest foer has raised my hackles. Now you go too far. Never and for no reason should these books be lumped together. one = smarmy bullshit the other = the most clear concise and appropriate way the author had to express the convoluted themes he approached and outlined. Extremely Loud is brilliant, beautiful and lovingly constructed. heartbreaking is bullshit. if you cant tell the dif, thats your bad!

message 41: by Jennie (new)

Jennie | 38 comments I couldn't get past all of the hideous descriptions of his parents' slowly dying from cancer long enough to even discover more about this book. I actually felt guilty that I couldn't bear witness to that pain, so it makes me feel good to know that the rest of it is self-important crap.

message 42: by Allison (new)

Allison I started reading it and was turned off by Eggers' account of his parents' illnesses. I actually finished up the first 39 pages, and was so depressed over it that I stuck it in a dresser drawer and didn't look at it for a year. When I picked it back up, I actually enjoyed the rest (well, most of it). I can understand why people don't like it--it is difficult, self-conscious, and long. Young readers overlook those things more often than older ones. I was sixteen when I read it, and I'm sure that if I read it now I would have given up right after his jealousy towards The Real World: San Francisco cast subsided.

message 43: by Jennie (new)

Jennie | 38 comments Allison, I'm not sure if there was intended snark in your last sentence about The Real World: SF, but it gave me a chuckle anyway.
: )

message 44: by Allison (new)

Allison Haha, there wasn't but I'm glad it made you chuckle! Reading other people indulge in petty jealousy is always good for a laugh : )

message 45: by Tom (new)

Tom I got about 50 pages in and was simply bored senseless. I remember nothing about it except that it felt rather gimmicky and cute.

message 46: by nina (new)

nina (ladeeda) | 14 comments Wow... This is in my "To-read". Is it really that bad?? :(

message 47: by Julie (new)

Julie | 3 comments Okay, so I think it's a bad book.
Not HORRIBLE exactly, I didn't want to die, and I did finish it, but uuuhhhg...
It just bored me.
I agree that the description of his parent's deaths were really depressing, and he's a great guy for taking care of his brother like that.
There were times when it touched me like, "oh, I'm so glad he was there for his brother."....but, critiquing it as a book that I paid for and was nominated for a pulitzer prize (?????), I was just Unimpressed. Capital U.

Abigail (42stitches) | 29 comments I can't say I hated it. But I did find the whole thing...funny. In that dark way. I laughed a lot. Don't think I'll ever read it again. And I must agree, I love the Non-required Reading collections. They were fantastic. The one about tracking used clothes (one specific T-shirt actually) all the way to Africa was hilarious.

message 49: by Leah (new)

Leah (leahsu) I picked up this book only because I thought the title sounded engaging. However, the longer I drove (from library to home, which is like, 15 minutes), the more I thought about the title.

For crying out loud, by the time I arrived home, I was annoyed! Could a title be any more pretentious?! So I read the book. Excuse me, I read the first 12 pages.

It's awful. All of that tripey-bs in his preface was horrendous! So I skimmed through that. I still had some hope intact.

Page 1...not so engaged. Page, this dude's style completely ROTS. Page get the picture.

Life is way too short to finish a book like that! I'm over it!

message 50: by Bad Penny (new)

Bad Penny (badpenny) | 2 comments I'm glad that I am not alone in hating this supposedly much-loved book.

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