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A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius Paperback – February 13, 2001
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“A virtuosic piece of writing, a big, daring, manic-depressive stew of a book that noisily announces the debut of a talented—yes, staggeringly talented new writer.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“ Exhilarating…. Profoundly moving, occasionally angry and often hilarious…. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is finally, a finite book of jest, which is why it succeeds so brilliantly.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Eggers evokes the terrible beauty of youth like a young Bob Dylan, frothing with furious anger…. He takes us close, shows us as much as he can bear…. His book is a comic and moving witness that transcends and transgresses formal boundaries.” —The Washington Post
“[F]unny, wildly intelligent…. What’s consistent throughout is the full-throttle voice: the sensibility of the man who grieves his parents, who safeguards his brother, who knows that his own presence here can walk the line between ‘self-conscious’ and ‘self-devouring.” —The Boston Globe
“Eggers crafts something universal here, something raw and real and wonderful that transcends any zeitgeist and manages to deal trenchantly with ‘big issues’ that often prove too daunting for younger writers: mortality, youth the artifice of writing, the Zen of Frisbee. This is a beautifully ragged, laugh-out-loud funny and utterly unforgettable book.” —San Francisco Chronicle
From the Inside Flap
The literary sensation of the year, a book that redefines both family and narrative for the twenty-first century. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is the moving memoir of a college senior who, in the space of five weeks, loses both of his parents to cancer and inherits his eight-year-old brother. Here is an exhilarating debut that manages to be simultaneously hilarious and wildly inventive as well as a deeply heartfelt story of the love that holds a family together.
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is an instant classic that will be read in paperback for decades to come. The Vintage edition includes a new appendix by the author.
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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.
This is a wonderful memoir:genuine, cleverly written, hilarious at times while shockingly tragic at others.
It's a memoir with true character and a story I will not easily forget.
The ending left a little something to be desired, but this is a memoir, not a work of fiction, so it is what it is.
The people who are saying this is boring clearly picked the wrong book, I think many of them didn't realize that this was a true story and not a fictional tale.
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.
(1) It is a dazzling performance that plows up memoir and cultural commentary. The author uses perspective, setting, dialogue and irony, loads of irony, to tell of one family's tragedy and fumbling recovery, as well as the state of middle-class suburban life and hopes, and what it was like to be young and otherwise invincible in the "it" city and the "it" decade, doing an "it" thing.
(2) When it was written a decade ago, the memoir form had caught fire; ten years on, it seems as if it is the only genre in which anyone writes anymore. In his introduction Eggers worries that he's joining the crowd, but he needn't worry. His is a unique story still worth telling. He, his older brother and sister, and their much younger little brother lost both parents to cancer within weeks of one another, when the author was still in college. Going from the relative comfort of life in an affluent suburb of Chicago and college life to becoming a parent to the elementary school aged brother is a remarkable balancing act.
(3) In the time that has passed, it has morphed from topical riffing on 1990's zeitgeist to powerful historical statement of that time. It potently preserves the energy and zeitgeist of the San Francisco Bay area, a generation and the classic passages of 20-somethings. It is a very American story.