A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Eggers, Dave

Book - 2001
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
From the Publisher: Well, this was when Bill was sighing a lot. He had decided that after our parents died he just didn't want any more fighting between what was left of us. He was twenty-four, Beth was twenty-three, I was twenty-one, Toph was eight, and all of us were so tried already, from that winter. So when something world come up, any little thing, some bill to pay or decision to make, he would just sigh, his eyes tired, his mouth in a sorry kind of smile. But Beth and I-Jesus, we were fighting with everyone, anyone, each other, with strangers at bars, anywhere-we were angry people wanting to exact revenge. We came to California and we wanted everything, would take what was ours, anything within reach. And I decided that little Toph and I, he with his backward hat and long hair, living together in our little house in Berkeley, would be world-destroyers. We inherited each other and, we felt, a responsibility to reinvent everything, to scoff and re-create and drive fast while singing loudly and pounding the windows. It was a hopeless sort of exhilaration, a kind of arrogance born of fatalism, I guess, of the feeling that if you could lose a couple of parents in a month, then basically anything could happen, at any time-all bullets bear your name, all cars are there to crush you, any balcony could give way; more disaster seemed only logical. And then, as in Dorothy's dream, all these people I grew up with were there, too, some of them orphans also, most but not all of us believing that what we had been given was extraordinary, that it was time to tear or break down, ruin, remake, take and devour. This was San Francisco, you know, and everyone had some dumb idea-I mean, wicca?-and no one there would tell you yours was doomed. Thus the public nudity, and this ridiculous magazine, and the Real World tryout, all this need, most of it disguised by sneering, but all driven by a hyper-awareness of this window, I guess, a few years when your muscles are taut, coiled up and vibrating. But what to do with the energy? I mean, when we drive, Toph and I, and we drive past people, standing on top of all these hills, part of me wants to stop the car and turn up the radio and have us all dance in formation, and part of me wants to run them all over.

Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 2001, c2000
Edition: 1st Vintage Books ed
ISBN: 0375725784
Branch Call Number: B Eggers E
Characteristics: xlv, 437 p. : ill. ; 21 cm.


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Dec 18, 2014
  • WVMLStaffPicks rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Yes, even the verso and the preface are inspired in this wonderful memoir by Eggers. His humourous and ironic touch lightens the heartbreaking tragedy that befalls his family but leaves us hopeful for their survival. The deep love that Dave has for his younger brother, Toph, is truly inspirational. It underlines the enduring faith in family that may get knocked around but staggers through to salvation.

Jul 11, 2014

How would you cope if you were a young indulgent hipster riddled with nervousness who's forced to witness the slow deaths of both your parents from cancer within weeks of each other and so become the DE facto caregiver to your 8 yr. old brother? Would you write a book in an original, funny and poignant voice about the experience?

May 03, 2014

Great book by a local author. Amazing story, recommend it to anyone.

Dec 11, 2013
  • 23305010727556 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

I had to read this book for school. While the review that the teacher gave us was all positive, when I started reading it, I was ... underwhelmed, to say the least. The first chapter, nothing happens. The author, at the beginning of the novel, even suggested that some might want to skip to the middle, which is what I did. Then, things began (only a little) to get more interesting, so that was fun, but it still was definitely not a book that is one of those you can't put down. Maybe I'm not analytical enough, but it seems like it's a very simple memoir of the author's childhood, and that is it. Sure, there's lots of humor in it, but not enough to make me want to read it. Flat and simple and plain. As a metaphor, To Kill A Mockingbird is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, while this is half a piece of bread, plain and simple. I rated it 3 stars because while I didn't like it, I did finish it, so it can't be that bad.

Mar 27, 2013

I read the reviews and found that this book is proably too esoteric for me.

Aug 24, 2012
  • browncnd99 rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

I love Dave Eggers work but I did not enjoy this collection of short stories at all! That being said, short stories aren't my favorite format. I pushed through to the end hoping I'd 'get it' but I didn't :)

Nov 20, 2011
  • ownedbydoxies rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I've read this book several times - I love it, and I don't say that lightly! This book is so different, so unique and thoughtful and outright hilarious, it's impossible to categorize. It might be too much for some readers - but don't let that stop you from giving it a try. I even went out and bought it after the first reading. It's my go-to book for when I need something to read and don't have anything worthwhile on the go at the time.

Oct 01, 2011
  • vcc rated this: 0.5 stars out of 5.

I still can't believe that such a pompous person even got published! His story is whiny, and really not too original. I give him a "one" for the time it must have taken him to write such drivel. (May 2000)

Mar 21, 2011
  • AJ_in_CoMo rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

I am pretty confused about this one. Generally, I feel it was a waste of time. However, I know that some of its imagery will be staying with me. And something made me read it to the end, despite my thinking the whole way through, "This is not an enjoyable book."

Feb 15, 2011
  • daymakerdave rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

This book started off great, but by half way through I really couldn't care less what happened. I grudgingly pushed through to the end and was quite disappointed.

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Aug 23, 2013


Aug 23, 2013

“To have lost one parent, Mr. Worthing, might be considered a misfortune. To have lost both smacks of carelessness”

Aug 23, 2013

I pick her up. We walk down to Nickie’s. It’s small, full of bodies, sweltering.


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A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Eggers, Dave
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