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"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).


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.

Topics: Debut, Family, Death, Brothers, Siblings, Stream of Consciousness, Postmodern, Coming of Age, Orphans, San Francisco Bay Area, and Heartfelt

Published: Simon & Schuster on Feb 12, 2013
ISBN: 9781476737546
List price: $11.99
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I struggled through half this book before deciding to waste no more time on it. read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
In general it is a mistake to scorn a book one has not read, but I’ll make an exception here. I took me less than 15 minutes to decide that this product is a pile of poo.First, there’s the arch title: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Does he mean it or is he inviting the reader to share some irony? Does the reader care?Then there is the weird succession of bizarre prefaces and intros. On the very first page the “Rules and suggestions for enjoyment of this book” are essentially an invitation to ignore practically all of it. Is this phoney self-deprecation designed to make one warm to the writer?Later there are “Acknowledgements” broken into sections with headings like “The painfully, endlessly self-conscious book aspect”, which begins, “This is probably obvious enough already”. Love the “probably”! We also get the “Self-aggrandisement as art form aspect”. Thumbing through the text more in bemusement than hope, one finds that nothing grabs one’s attention. Eggers witters. Somebody once said that the first task of the writer is to befriend the reader. Yes, I agree, this is fundamental. Eggers, on the other hand, sets out to irritate the reader in the shortest time possible. Bad move!Narcissism only needs a mirror, not an audience. To accept this book requires nothing less than an act of faith. Not from me - life is too short to waste time indulging the ego of jerks! This one will be in the wild very soon!read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
When you were young did you ever wonder what would happen if your parents died? I did.When I was about 15 or 16 my dad became quite ill; he was hospitalized for a while and almost died. We knew that the possibility of is death was a very real thing. The tension was staggering. I was the oldest of six kids. What do you think the second thought on my mind was at the time? ~"What if something happened to Mom too?"Thinking back on it now I can't believe that there wasn't some sort of plan in place and I really believe there wasn't. By that point we either had no grandparents living or just one who was old and very ill. We had one aunt on my mom's side and she was divorced and pretty frazzled with the raising of her only son. We had one uncle on my dad's side who seemed like a possibility as they were raising three kids as old or older than myself; but we weren't really close to them emotionally and I can't imagine the financial burden of raising six kids on top of the emotional strain.Really...who's going to raise SIX kids that aren't their responsibility?I was certain that I'd do it. I really thought I could. I was also certain that the only possible solution I could imagine was for us kids to be split up among different people; family...close family friends... I was determined that if that had to happen due to my young age, I would work to be able to take custody of everyone as soon as I was old enough.Dave Eggers' Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius explores a very similar situation that really happened.Yes, he works very hard to convince the reader that it is fictional, at least only based on truth; his truth. My friend and I both feel that he doth protest too much though. We believe it is autobiographical. At the age of 21 Dave and his older siblings expected their mother's death; sooner than later. What they didn't expect was a death-sentence-diagnosis for their dad that resulted in his almost instantaneous and previously unexpected death.Their youngest sibling was 7 years old. It was decided that Dave would take on most of the responsibility of raising Christopher ("Toph").Dave gives word to feelings all parents experience at one time or another. It seems that perhaps he experiences them more frequently though. As the mom of five kids ranging in age from 5 to 15 I admit to having experienced most of the concerns he explores. In truth, I've wondered as he did whether or not something horrifying might happen to one of my children due to the awful selfishness I've exhibited by needing a bit of "me time" or "us time" for my husband and me. Overall, I've always been able to keep those feelings from ruining life for all of us. They are crippling thoughts but I've never allowed them to cripple me. Can you imagine the "case" I'd be if I did. Five kids, remember?So, Dave explores all of this.He does so with a book that is mostly written as a string-of-consciousness-sort-of-thing. My brother pointed out that such writing can become exhausting or annoying. I felt that due to the subject matter it really worked though. I liked it. I could feel what he was feeling.Dave really cornered my market when he was thinking about how lucky Toph was to be hanging out with him and how lucky he was to be exposed to the great music Dave enjoyed... Oh yeah. He even explored the idea of homeschooling Toph because he was envious of how much time the teachers spent with him.As a mom who homeschooled all of our kids until our oldest was finished with sixth grade, and then some others longer, I attempted to expose our kids to the best of everything from all time periods: books, movies, music. There is so much more to life than today's available choices. Still, one worries about recreating yourself via your children (if we're honest). That is not something we wanted to have happen. We only want for them to be well rounded individuals who can related to people of all ages.Here is a quote that expresses part of Dave's obvious concern:"...when someone noticed him (Toph) for being him(self), we would all have to stand back a second and see him for what he actually was, at least superficially: a seventh-grade boy. Of course, he had a difficult time discerning, himself. He had recently made this clear, when he and Marny and I were driving back from the beach. She and I were talking about one of the new interns, who, at twenty-two, was much younger than we had assumed~"Really?" said Toph. "I though he was our age."Sure, mistakes were made in the raising of Toph.We ALL make mistakes. All. The. Time.The real point is the great love fostered between the two. They grew and they grew together. They were a team, united. They made the best of a horrifying situation. they made it work.I appreciated Eggers' raw honesty.Oh...I also appreciated the sense of humor he exhibited in the titling of his book.He acknowledged the fact that everyone who would read his book would be able to pick it apart. They'd be able to find a million and one things wrong with it; and so he poked fun at the self-inflated idea of writing a book about yourself, about your own loss, and expecting others to read it.I read it.I liked it.read more
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I struggled through half this book before deciding to waste no more time on it.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
In general it is a mistake to scorn a book one has not read, but I’ll make an exception here. I took me less than 15 minutes to decide that this product is a pile of poo.First, there’s the arch title: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Does he mean it or is he inviting the reader to share some irony? Does the reader care?Then there is the weird succession of bizarre prefaces and intros. On the very first page the “Rules and suggestions for enjoyment of this book” are essentially an invitation to ignore practically all of it. Is this phoney self-deprecation designed to make one warm to the writer?Later there are “Acknowledgements” broken into sections with headings like “The painfully, endlessly self-conscious book aspect”, which begins, “This is probably obvious enough already”. Love the “probably”! We also get the “Self-aggrandisement as art form aspect”. Thumbing through the text more in bemusement than hope, one finds that nothing grabs one’s attention. Eggers witters. Somebody once said that the first task of the writer is to befriend the reader. Yes, I agree, this is fundamental. Eggers, on the other hand, sets out to irritate the reader in the shortest time possible. Bad move!Narcissism only needs a mirror, not an audience. To accept this book requires nothing less than an act of faith. Not from me - life is too short to waste time indulging the ego of jerks! This one will be in the wild very soon!
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
When you were young did you ever wonder what would happen if your parents died? I did.When I was about 15 or 16 my dad became quite ill; he was hospitalized for a while and almost died. We knew that the possibility of is death was a very real thing. The tension was staggering. I was the oldest of six kids. What do you think the second thought on my mind was at the time? ~"What if something happened to Mom too?"Thinking back on it now I can't believe that there wasn't some sort of plan in place and I really believe there wasn't. By that point we either had no grandparents living or just one who was old and very ill. We had one aunt on my mom's side and she was divorced and pretty frazzled with the raising of her only son. We had one uncle on my dad's side who seemed like a possibility as they were raising three kids as old or older than myself; but we weren't really close to them emotionally and I can't imagine the financial burden of raising six kids on top of the emotional strain.Really...who's going to raise SIX kids that aren't their responsibility?I was certain that I'd do it. I really thought I could. I was also certain that the only possible solution I could imagine was for us kids to be split up among different people; family...close family friends... I was determined that if that had to happen due to my young age, I would work to be able to take custody of everyone as soon as I was old enough.Dave Eggers' Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius explores a very similar situation that really happened.Yes, he works very hard to convince the reader that it is fictional, at least only based on truth; his truth. My friend and I both feel that he doth protest too much though. We believe it is autobiographical. At the age of 21 Dave and his older siblings expected their mother's death; sooner than later. What they didn't expect was a death-sentence-diagnosis for their dad that resulted in his almost instantaneous and previously unexpected death.Their youngest sibling was 7 years old. It was decided that Dave would take on most of the responsibility of raising Christopher ("Toph").Dave gives word to feelings all parents experience at one time or another. It seems that perhaps he experiences them more frequently though. As the mom of five kids ranging in age from 5 to 15 I admit to having experienced most of the concerns he explores. In truth, I've wondered as he did whether or not something horrifying might happen to one of my children due to the awful selfishness I've exhibited by needing a bit of "me time" or "us time" for my husband and me. Overall, I've always been able to keep those feelings from ruining life for all of us. They are crippling thoughts but I've never allowed them to cripple me. Can you imagine the "case" I'd be if I did. Five kids, remember?So, Dave explores all of this.He does so with a book that is mostly written as a string-of-consciousness-sort-of-thing. My brother pointed out that such writing can become exhausting or annoying. I felt that due to the subject matter it really worked though. I liked it. I could feel what he was feeling.Dave really cornered my market when he was thinking about how lucky Toph was to be hanging out with him and how lucky he was to be exposed to the great music Dave enjoyed... Oh yeah. He even explored the idea of homeschooling Toph because he was envious of how much time the teachers spent with him.As a mom who homeschooled all of our kids until our oldest was finished with sixth grade, and then some others longer, I attempted to expose our kids to the best of everything from all time periods: books, movies, music. There is so much more to life than today's available choices. Still, one worries about recreating yourself via your children (if we're honest). That is not something we wanted to have happen. We only want for them to be well rounded individuals who can related to people of all ages.Here is a quote that expresses part of Dave's obvious concern:"...when someone noticed him (Toph) for being him(self), we would all have to stand back a second and see him for what he actually was, at least superficially: a seventh-grade boy. Of course, he had a difficult time discerning, himself. He had recently made this clear, when he and Marny and I were driving back from the beach. She and I were talking about one of the new interns, who, at twenty-two, was much younger than we had assumed~"Really?" said Toph. "I though he was our age."Sure, mistakes were made in the raising of Toph.We ALL make mistakes. All. The. Time.The real point is the great love fostered between the two. They grew and they grew together. They were a team, united. They made the best of a horrifying situation. they made it work.I appreciated Eggers' raw honesty.Oh...I also appreciated the sense of humor he exhibited in the titling of his book.He acknowledged the fact that everyone who would read his book would be able to pick it apart. They'd be able to find a million and one things wrong with it; and so he poked fun at the self-inflated idea of writing a book about yourself, about your own loss, and expecting others to read it.I read it.I liked it.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
to my reading the self-indulgence, the overly intentional cleverness, the form are all part and parcel of the content. i am touched that dave eggers had the courage to put all of his ugliest thoughts and behaviors out there. i don't take it as a celebration of those aspects of his character. i think he paints an honest portrait of his internal landscape, and sometimes that internal landscape shows a pretty shitty person. that's not to say that you'd ever end up liking the book, but what i took away from it by the end was not that he wrote this book to be self-aggrandizing, but in some way to purge himself of behaviors and attitudes that he's not necessarily proud of, but that are real and are human and that everyone experiences at some points. he admits to his sense of entitlement, and my perception was that he is in some ways revolted by it, but does not reject it or disown it. perhaps having those self-centered thoughts so compactly presented (obviously there is a good deal of telescoping of time in the novel/memoir) makes for an impossible read for some people. i can distill my adoration of eggers into a single word: sincerity. i don't believe he spares himself at all and i admire him immensely for it.
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A 'true' memoir, but not in the linear sense. It is very self conscious and so a little annoying at times. It's weird and sad and funny in some places, a lot like life. There is no plot to speak of, and the reader has to place events and people in a chronology on their own. Basically, this guy's parents died of cancer a month apart and so he believes he is special because of the terrible events, and also going to die, or his little brother that he is guardian of, are going to die at any moment. He is also writing because he wants to share his pain, but he's self-conscious about sharing his pain, so it's not really sharing. It's also a commentary on the 90s - real world, grunge, etc. mindset. The problem and what makes this unique is that Eggers knows that everything is coming through the lens of his experience and perception and makes you aware that he knows it and so you don't get to know any other character - only what Eggers perceives them as.
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Up to page 200; okay. Afterwards it's a waste of time.
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