A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius - Worth reading?

Title says it all. Is this a good read?

I liked it a lot, though I liked the first part more than the later part.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it’s neither good writing nor good literature. It’s a self-indulgent “reportage” of life for a young man who loses his parents and adopts his younger brother. It’s an interesting look inside of his head, at what he thinks is important, how he defines success and how he works out problems.

But I found it more interesting because I like figuring out what makes people tick, than because there any good writing or an actual story to be gleaned.

So, if sitting around the local park making up stories about the people who pass by is your idea of fun, then you’ll like this book.

Do you like reading blogs? It’s more like a blog than a novel.

I couldn’t finish it. I constantly had this overwhelming desire to slap the narrator upside the head. Self-indulgent is a good way to describe the book.

Dave Eggers was quite the literary *wunderkind *a few years ago - wrote the book and a couple of others, publishes McSweeney’s the literary magazine and is known for 826 Valencia (address may be wrong) a place to give underprivileged kids some tutoring.

I read the book and remember enjoying it and thinking that he pulled it off - meaning it was self-absorbed, but came across as “worthily” so, if you will. Meaning he went through enough stuff with his parents and brother and finding a way to put one foot in front of the other through all that that it ended up working.

I much prefer other self-conscious writers like David Foster Wallace, but this was worth a dip into…

I also couldn’t finish it. Total self indulgence.

I’ve read other stuff by him that I’ve liked.

Yeah. That’s really unhelpful, isn’t it? :slight_smile:

I read it a couple years after publication, and liked it a lot. It’s self-indulgent, yes, but it’s the memoir of a young man in an awkward spot trying to find success as he defines it in a very Gen X way: attention and appreciation.

His style – lots of em dashes, cheap irony, and frequent bouts of self-reference – has been, for better or worse, quite influential in its way.

I’ve never really understood the “smack him upside the head” references, since (and I apologize if this is simply poor recollection) I don’t remember him seeming unusually foolish or out-of-grips. Just another liberal arts major, gen-X schmo trying to make something of himself, and failing.

His ultimate success came from a) reflecting on his failed youth and learning to celebrate it and b) embracing the hand life dealt him and working to help youth. I’m not sure those are bad messages.

All that said, I’m not sure I’d be able to read it now. I can’t imagine the style has aged well, aped as it is by so, so many blogs.

I’d argue that Eggers’s best work is as founder of McSweeney’s and writer of the coolly-received Where the Wild Things Are screenplay.

Good story, but I don’t recall many of the details because it has been a few years since I touched it. But I also read Zeitoun and Velocity and both of those books were good too.

I really like Dave Eggers, but I gotta say, I couldn’t make it through this book. As others have said, it’s more like a blog, and a bit over the top even for “young man comes of age!” type of stuff.

On the other hand, I can highly recommend Zeitounand What is the What.

Me, too. First, the whole “mother sick and dying” was too close to home, but also he seems so in love with his own adorable quirkiness that I never made it past the second chapter.

Another vote for overly self-indulgent, but a quick and easy read. It has its moments.

I liked it. I think it’s one of those books that you can tell if you’re going to enjoy the style pretty much right off the bat, so just read the first few pages in the bookstore or library and see if you like it.

When I first read it several years ago, I thought it was great. I tried to read it again a few weeks ago after my mother died of cancer, since the first portion of the book deals with his mother’s death from cancer, and I found the writing style unbearable.

I will say in Eggers’ defense that I think all the little quirks and self-referential in-jokes that he makes were fresh when the book came out and are stale now simply because that sort of writing has been emulated by so many people. I don’t want to say it’s like reading Shakespeare and rolling your eyes at all the stale tropes and cliches, because Eggers is by all means no where near Shakespeare’s level of writing, but…it’s kind of like that. Edit: Not that Eggers even invented the self-referential jokes he makes… Eh, you know what I mean!

I read it. It was “meh” for me.

I read it several years ago. It didn’t leave much of an impression on me beyond a general “meh”. It didn’t live up to its name, certainly.

ETA: Rhiannon’s “meh” wasn’t there when I offered my “meh”. I’d hate anyone to think I was "meh"ing unoriginally.

Great title, but I couldn’t make it past the first couple of pages.

Eggers is a handsome, witty, successful guy and he knows it. This can be offputting.

That said, he’s an entertaining writer who has lived an interesting life.

As stated above he had/has an innovative, quirky style which has become more commonplace, potentially rendering this work a little dated.

But “dated” doesn’t matter if it’s good. Dickens is “dated,” so are Poe and Jane Austen and Evelyn Waugh: their style and their plot points have been copied endlessly. To me, Eggers’ style is just twee and self-consciously quirky and annoying.

That said, you may love him: give it a try. I cant stand Hemingway, so obviously tastes differ . . .

I classify my books into these categories: “Don’t Bother,” “Borrow from the library,” “Buy at Half Price Books” and “Buy it.”

I’d put AHWoSG into the “Borrow from the library” category.