My friend S was going through books and passed on her copy of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius to me. I had heard it referenced before in many cultural contexts (including a Gilmore Girls episode, if memory serves) but had never read it. The only Dave Eggers I had read was The Circle which I found quite interesting (if some parts a little frustrating). I was eager to see how this work stacked up.
The premise of the story is eye-catching. Dave Eggers’ parents die within a year of each other when he is about 21 or 22, and he and his older siblings have to build a life for their much younger grade school-aged brother. Toph is a sibling but he becomes a combined best friend and child for Eggers as he navigates his own young adulthood and career ambitions. We hear a lot about the magazine that Eggers worked for before McSweeney’s, just as we hear about all sorts of relationship dramas and the pains and joys of raising a kid when you yourself are fairly young.
But I need to be real: as interesting (and painful) as the subject matter is, the writing style drove.me.crazy. There is a fair amount of ranting and unnecessary strings of profanity, which very much shows that Eggers was a young, white, self-important man when he wrote the book. It’s not say that this isn’t worth reading, but after reading several other authors who sort of belong as Eggers’ contemporaries, I think my patience has been somewhat exhausted for this kind of literature.
Cross-posted to my blog.