A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius discussion
I can't imagine many things that by definition, are more self-aware than a memoir.
And as a memoir it's a thing of beauty. Passages that you'll want to read aloud to somebody.
Much better than his follow-up.
I also loved the comment by Gil: "The first half is worth reading. When it starts to drag, and you will know it by its velocity, stop reading it. It doesn't get better."
You Shall Know Our Velocity by Eggers (is that the title?) was also... shall I say, a lot of words for no reason.
And talk about self-serving... that title is so grand.
Both titles are so grand. Why does he do that? To get our attention? Well, he got it, and most people on the thread weren't able to sustain the attention.
Of course, I say this, and I certainly have not produced a full-length book, so I don't want to complain too vociferously (I think that's the first time I've actually used that word in my own writing.)
Otherwise, I'm in the Gil camp. Loved the concept of this experimental memoir, but was turned off by the internal dialogue when it became--as others pointed out--painfully self-conscious. Self-reflection turns into whiney self-absorption, a form of writing that is probably healing for the author, but not something I want to wade through ever again.
I wanted to like this book... I didn't exactly dislike it, but I was left feeling pretty ambivalent about it by the time I finished.
Eggars can form some pretty phrases- but I didn't really feel my emotions evoked (and I'm a fairly emotional person).
So despite the subjects, the real-life aspect, and the skill with words, I was left feeling a bit empty. by this one. I suppose it seemed just a bit too self-indulgent to me- as if he was writing for his own catharsis, and if someone else happened to enjoy it, so be it.
Obviously that worked out for many people- I just don't happen to be one of them.
Yep, that's where I'm at, too. I totally understood why, in the front matter, Eggers noted that you could stop reading around page 239 (?), because it stopped being a more linear story and started becoming something else.
In any case, I really related to his internal dialogue, probably because I'm too self-aware, too! I did skim over some of the Real World "interview," because it did drag somewhat.
I found this a very enjoyable read, however.
At first I thought the title was egotistical, then I thought it was sarcastic. But after finishing the book I think it is a clever swipe at the novel as a genre. Because isn't the goal of novelists to write heartbreaking works of staggering genius? Why not call a duck a duck?
A confession - I haven't finished it yet. I haven't finished it because I can't read too much at a time without getting overwhelmed with my own feelings. I get agitated. I have to put it down and read other, lighter novels. But then I return to it and get sucked in again.
He's done well as a writer to cause such a strong reaction - but it's sometimes hard (even just as a reader) to live too long in the land of death.
So, would I recommend it? For the first half, yes. For the rest? Who knows, I didn't make it that far.
Eggers presents a character (himself) overwrought with survival guilt, post traumatic stress disorder, and the fall out of being an adult child of an alcoholic. His overly self-absorbed personification is merely an attempt to mask his deepseeded and overwhelming insecurities... nanny nanny boo boo Eggers, I see you.
The stream of consciousness was way overdone -- the run on sentences... the way he interrupted himself. Constantly. But I understand the reason for the context. I, too, have lived through a truly traumatic experience and understand the anxiousness, depression, and broken thoughts that can cripple an untreated PTSD mind. Also, the desperation for someone -- anyone -- everyone -- to understand you and sympathize for you.
Hopefully Eggers has seen a therapist by now... if not, I can give him the name of mine.
You say, "Man, you are full of yourself, huh?"
He says, "Heh, not really, but I understand it could come off that way, so here's an ironic title."
You're disarmed; he has criticized himself first in an act of possibly-sincere humility.
Unfortunately, this act invites the criticism it intends to deflect. I think a lot of us would have reacted differently to the book had it cut out all the bullshit and focused on telling its story honestly and less self-consciously. You can tell the truth about real events that happened to you without being self-conscious about the TELLING of them.
I picked this book up for the title, but became captivated by the story. There are sweet tender moments mixed in with early to mid 20's arrogance.
Stick with it. Its well worth it.
I'm only on page 275, so it's not like I'm done yet,
but this is just simply a slow book.
I'm only a sophomore in high school, but I spend most of my time reading.
Regardless, I've been struggling through this book for over a month already, and am still enjoying it.
But if you find part of it boring don't just stop reading the book,
simply skip that part.
It's not like it'll have that much consequence to the remainder of the book...
No. Sorry. Kept me going. It's on hold. Indefinitely. Although I do intend to return to it when I get my mental stamina back.
I did like the stapler though.
Ha-ha - I like your review ... :)
i think that speaks to his attempt to force a similar experience by going on a trip around the world and then framing it again around family tragedy. I read it when it first came out, but later publications of the work included a chapter in which his travel companion picked apart the narrative from within the book, pointing out 'fabrications' and exaggerations the narrator has included in the text. These insights made the whole story (which i enjoyed in its intital iteration) even richer.
I saw a theatrical version of the story that he co-wrote which wove even more nay-saying of the narrator's honesty throughout the entire story.
it may have suffered for being published a little early, but by the theatrical version, i think he had managed to flesh out the story into something nearly/as rich and rewarding as his first memoir
I have to agree w/ you. The part about his job was uninteresting and his attempts at raising his brother were depressing.
Very surprised people think it's genius or amazing. I mean, I don't hate it, and I respect Eggers as a talented writer, but I don't like this book and what he's trying to do with it. Also maybe I'm just not into his overly witty attempts at humor. Didn't laugh once!
I had a tough time with this one for various reasons, but not because I was overcome with grief for him or anything. My mom died of cancer when I was 23 and my dad three years later of cirrhosis, and I'm not buying into the pity party. The problem is Eggers thinks he's so smart, tells everyone he thinks he's so smart, and then tries to trick everyone into thinking his story is so great, and then admits to trying to trick everyone into thinking his story is so great.
I'M OVER IT!
I don't think I could disagree with you more strongly.
As someone who really enjoyed the book I have to tell you, you need not apologize for your apinion. My girlfriend and I read and love many of the same books. Yet at the same time, every once in a while, we will completely opposite opinions on a book, which makes for some spirited debates. But I would encourage anyone who didn't like Genious to geve What is the What and Zeitoun a chance.