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A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius: A Memoir Based on a True Story Kindle Edition
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|Length: 426 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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David Remnick Eggers is an original new voice, the real thing. When you read his extraordinary memoir you don't laugh, then cry, then laugh again; you somehow experience these emotions all at once -- and powerfully.
David Sedaris The force and energy of this book could power a train.
David Foster Wallace The thing took off for me in the basement and didn't stop. I am scared to fly and find it hard to read on planes, but coming back from Washington I was in the part about the cemetery and Bonaduce and the cremains looking like cat litter and it being her birthday, and I didn't even notice we'd landed till everybody started getting up. I shit you not. That is a big deal. A note is hit there, and sustained -- it is terribly, terribly moving, without being in any way gooey or contrived. Fine, fine writing. And while I admired many of the headier, more po-mo comic bits -- the long meditation on the idea of a story about John's suicide, for example, as well as the fake dialogues with Toph where he metacriticizes the book and completely vivisects all your hypocrisies. These bits are strong in kind of the obverse way, i.e., they are smart and self-conscious without being cold. I thought the places where you cut loose and did arias of grief, like at the church, were the book's best art. Also its bravest: I believe I know how horrible is the prospect of bathos or sentimentality to you (it is to me, anyway, as a writer, and I don't have a history that's as off-the-charts sad and rife with bathos-hazard as yours), and I report here that I was almost as moved by your willingness to risk it as I was impressed by the high-wire skill with which you avoided it. It's a merciless book.
Lawrence Weschler Truly splendid. The key word in the title, of course, is "Staggering" -- and not just because of the subliminal pun off "Eggers." Rather, Eggers is some kind of Staggering Genius the way Pavarotti is a Singing one. When Kierkegaard got in this deep -- this endlessly self-ironizingly, loopily down-spiralingly deep -- he had to rely on God to save him. But Eggers somehow manages to save himself -- all his endlessly knowing self-undercutting somehow managing to cut clean through to something more bottomlessly profound: a simple wonder; a knowing wonder, to be sure, but no less abiding a Wonder for all that.
Rick Moody This book does not need a blurb.
About the Author
- Publication date : February 12, 2013
- File size : 2133 KB
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 426 pages
- Publisher : Simon & Schuster (February 12, 2013)
- ASIN : B00B91FU6S
- Language: : English
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #125,425 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Before even reaching the first page of the novel there is an acknowledgment page, well pages. The acknowledgment section is multiple pages of small print ravings. Eggers explains that you are more than welcome to skip this section. I recommend that you do not. It is long, but it is also humorous and will set the tone for the novel yet to come.
A Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius is about as pompously and as self-centered as the title suggests. Eggers is a twenty-something year old who not only has to find his own way in life, he is doing so while coming to terms with death and parenting his younger brother. It can be seen as a coming of age novel where the narrator has to figure out how to live with death. Or, maybe it is a novel about death where the living are brought along as side characters. Either way, the book truly is genius.
It is also eccentric. If you are looking for a more traditional narrative structure or a more mature and likable main character, then you will probably passionately hate this novel. If you are looking for something that pushes the envelope, that looks at novel writing as an art form and isn't afraid to show the world in all its gory truth then you will probably love this book as much as I do.
Before I even picked this book up, I was aware that it seems to inspire strong feelings. Some people HATE it and some people think it's magnificent. How you will receive this book depends entirely on how you feel about Eggers' writing. If you think his stream-of-consciousness, wildly tangential, constantly-on-the-verge-of-a-panic-attack style of narrative is great, you'll think this book is amazing. If, however, you want a straightforward, relatively linear narrative, you will think this is the worst thing you've ever read.
It feels beside the point to talk about story structure, because there isn't really any (it's very hard to tell how fast time is passing and there aren't really narrative beats to speak of), or character development, because there isn't really any of that either. Even for a memoir, a sense of story and character tend to be important, but neither is a priority for Eggers. While I'm usually fairly open to nontraditional narrative, this book is 100% style over substance. The most compelling part, for me, was the relationship between Dave and Toph, and Dave wrestling with both his fierce love and concern for his brother and his acknowledged resentment of being prematurely thrust into a parental role. However, I mostly found it tiresome. It held my attention inconsistently at best, I was usually bored long before a particular side riff was over. Eggers' flaw isn't that he's wildly self-absorbed (I think memoir is an inherently self-absorbed form since it's literally assuming that your own life is so compelling that other people want to read about it), but that he's not nearly as interesting as he thinks he is. I wouldn't recommend this book, but I wouldn't tear it out of anyone's hands and I can understand why some people really respond to it. I just didn't.
That said, the book was hard to follow at times. If I wasn't paying attention I'd suddenly become aware that the story had drifted from present day to some other memory. The paragraphs stretched on, making it feel like a million anxious thoughts stuffed into one moment. Maybe that was the point. I did get used to the pacing, but the end of the book was the ultimate test of being able to stay with the story-- a bunch of run on ideas all shoved together. I've got to say, I have no idea what the end of the book was supposed to mean.
Top reviews from other countries
That becomes much more clear when you get into the book - it not about anything of any significance.
I really disliked the way that the narrative jumps about in a way that makes me think the author was trying too hard to be rebelious.
The author is very bitter and twisted which does not reflect well into his writing.
The beginning is heartbreaking as it follows the death of a parent, and then changes tempo as we see, through David's eyes, how the family story progresses.
The story is not linear and jumps about as David recalls past events whilst working, moving around the country, setting up a magazine and looking after his younger sibling. The story charts his relationship with friends, family but mostly on his memories and his role as guardian of godmother Toph.
The first 50 odd pages cover the decline and deaths of his parents, which I found rather dry, but it is really just setting the scene for what is to come. These deaths leave the author with the financial wherewithal to be independant at the age of 22. His 'problem' however is that he is also left largely responsible for his 7 year old younger brother. The tension between wanting to lead a 'normal' youthful existence and the overriding concerns for welfare of his brother (to whom he is clearly devoted) is central and touchingly portrayed. But, the reason I have given this book the full 5* is because it is one of only a handful of books that have ever made me literally laugh out loud. This was when he describes a nude photo shoot on a beach.
There is both anger and energy coming off the pages of this book, and whilst I can see at times it may come across as self-consciously pretentious in places, it is all done knowingly and I at least was ok with it all.
Read with an open mind, and be prepared to laugh a lot and (maybe) cry a little.