A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

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A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

by Dave Eggers

Knopf Canada | February 13, 2001 | Trade Paperback

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is rated 3.6786 out of 5 by 28.
"I think this book is kind of malleable. I''ve never really wanted to put it away and be done with it forever -- the second I first ''finished'' it, I wanted to dig back in and change everything around. So I''m looking forward to getting back into the text, and straightening and focusing and deleting. Most of all, I''m thrilled that Vintage will be letting me include all the cool chase scenes, previously censored." -- Dave Eggers

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 seven-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.

PAPERBACK EDITION -- 15% MORE STAGGERING - Eggers has written 15,000 additional words for the Vintage Canada edition, including an entirely new appendix.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 496 pages, 8 × 5.2 × 0.84 in

Published: February 13, 2001

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0676973655

ISBN - 13: 9780676973655

Found in: Biography and Memoir

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must read! Now, I understand this book isn't for everyone. But I recommend everyone at least attempt to read it once. Get yourself familiar with this author. If this memoir isn't for you, pick up What is the What. You'll love Dave Eggers. This memoir is a tragic and hilarious piece of art. Yes, there absolutely are pages upon pages of nothingness. The "story" doesn't move foward at times. That's what makes the book unique, it's nothingness yet somethingness and it's immensely interesting and enjoyable. Above all, it's the funniest book you'll ever read. 
Date published: 2014-03-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from In some cases, you can judge a book by its cover (or title) David Eggers emerges in this loosely autobiographical work as a force to be reckoned with. Rarely is a book as genuinely moving, while managing to be funny. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggaring Genius is the story of a young man (Eggers), who is forced to raise his younger brother with the passing of their mother. What results is a beautifully written account of the sorrows and joys that accompany him while he is thrust into adulthood. An absolutely marvelous read.
Date published: 2009-07-31
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Thumbs down It caught my attention in the beginning..but very quickly it was gone. Too much rambling on, and on, and on.. for a smooth and interesting read.
Date published: 2009-01-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Self Aware Tongue-in-Cheek Pretention To act like Eggers a moment I am going to toss around some vocabulary: This book is an exercise in glib solipsism, an ambuscade of poseurism, with a dash of audience participation. Here's a quote as an example, "The self-canonization disguised as self-destruction masquerading as self-aggrandizement disguised as self-flagellation as highest art form of all aspect." However, despite the hard work I had to invest to get into the meat of the book, it was still a pretty good time.
Date published: 2008-10-22
Rated 1 out of 5 by from 1.5/5 As someone who absolutely loves memoirs, I was very excited to read this book. The description sounded intriguing, and I had been told by quite a few people that it was a great read. It started off well ... the description of the author's life with his mother was so incredibly honest ... truly heartbreaking. Unfortunately, the story deteriorated rapidly from there. I felt very detached from what was being described. I found myself disliking Dave immensely ... I really didn't care about what happened to him. He spent pages describing the most pointless details of his life ... at times I was almost bored to tears. Dave Eggers is a lot of things ... but a genius he is NOT.
Date published: 2008-09-25
Rated 1 out of 5 by from What a Bore!!! This book is one of the most boring books I have ever read!!!!! I read through it as quickly as I could (skipping many pages). I would not recommend this book unless you have nothing else to do with your time!!!
Date published: 2008-05-29
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Aggrevating Not a complete waste ot time, but close to it. Sped read through the last 200 pages. Eggers' protagonist should get overhimself and move on.
Date published: 2008-03-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Jolting, uplifting, endearing A headlong rush of stream of thought that is compelling, contemporary and touching. Charming and exhausting at times, I enjoyed the ride.
Date published: 2008-01-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Tough, but Worthy Read I found myself having trouble reading this book. It's not that I didn't want to, or that it's not written well... It's utterly exhausting. Dave Eggers writes it as if he were doing it in a rush... Like someone speaking so quickly you can almost see the words tumbling out of their mouth. When I read it, I find myself picking up that same pace. After about 20 pages, I'm tired of reading so quickly... and so much. Within a single paragraph, he crams a dozen or more ideas... and that paragraph can span more than a page. I liked it, despite not being born of his generation or having experienced San Francisco in any way. I've never even seen more than one or 2 episodes of Real World - although coincidentally enough, it was the season with Puck and Judd - but I keep reading. And the more I read, the more I'm torn between feeling utterly sorry for him, and agreeing wholeheartedly. He writes about random moments and anecdotes that I find myself saying "No kidding! I didn't think anyone else thought stuff like that." It is indeed heartbreaking... and too often have I had to stop reading in order to gain a breath of fresh air.
Date published: 2008-01-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Puts his other books into context I read You Shall Know our Velocity a couple of years ago, based on a recommendation from my brother. I could not, for the life of me, understand what he saw in that book. For some reason, I hung onto my copy. This past year I picked up Heartbreaking Work out of interest, as I love biographies and memoires. The book itself is a good read. You may wonder how a young man would have full memoires already, but indeed Eggers tells his story with humour and in a way that evokes empathy and new found respect for the author. I then went back and re-read You Shall Know our Velocity, and I loved it. Heartbreaking really set the stage for the others, and I have since found Eggers to be one of my favourite, most reliably high-quality, writers.
Date published: 2007-12-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not Genius, But Certainly Delightful I find myself having trouble reading this book. It's not that I don't want to, or that it's not written well... It's utterly exhausting. Dave Eggers writes it as if he were doing it in a rush... Like someone speaking so quickly you can almost see the words tumbling out of their mouth. When I read it, I find myself picking up that same pace. After about 20 pages, I'm tired of reading so quickly... and so much. Within a single paragraph, he crams a dozen or more ideas... and that paragraph can span more than a page. I'm liking it, despite not being born of his generation or having experienced San Francisco in any way. I've never even seen more than one or 2 episodes of Real World - although coincidentally enough, it was the season with Puck and Judd - but I keep reading. And the more I read, the more I'm torn between feeling utterly sorry for him, and agreeing wholeheartedly. He writes about random moments and anecdotes that I find myself saying "No kidding! I didn't think anyone else thought stuff like that." It is heartbreaking... and too often have I had to stop reading in order to gain a breath of fresh air.
Date published: 2007-05-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful This is one of the most inspiring books I have ever read. A true story about a nine year old boy, Toph, whose parents have just recently passed away from cancer. Toph's older brother Chris, is now the legal guardian. Chris does everything in his power to make sure Toph has a normal life. They sell the house and get a small apartment in the city. With the money left over, they pay for Toph's education at a private school. As Toph grows up, he becomes well adjusted to his surroundings.
Date published: 2006-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thought I would die laughing He's hilarious. Some of the choices he makes are so outrageous that you have to laugh. This is a family favorite - a must read.
Date published: 2006-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Read Wow. I read this book in two nights, I couldn't put it down... it's fantastic... I think I need to read it two or three more times just to try and get as much of it as I can. Awesome imagery and flawless narrative. Rates up there with Jean Dominique Bauby, Salinger (Eggers reminds me of Salinger in writing style), and Mark Haddon... so good.
Date published: 2005-12-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Funniest. Book. Ever. (parents beware?) Definitely the funniest book I've ever read - I laughed out loud way too much. Eggers writes how you'd think and it makes for a very entertaining read. His writing style is definitely what made the book. One interesting thing to note is that after most of my friends and I recommended the book to our friends and relatives - as you do with such a work of staggering genius - we found a distinctly different take between parents and non-parents. I'm not sure why, but if you're a parent you might not enjoy this one as much.
Date published: 2005-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extremely talented I read this book back 5 years ago, and it is truly the best book I have ever read. I tell everyone to read this work of art. Dave Eggers is extremely talented. His writing is fast, smooth and easy to follow but also brilliant.Everyone that enjoys a good novel should experience the refreshing writing style of Dave Eggers.
Date published: 2005-07-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A treasure!!! Wonderfull! Laugh outloud funny. Engaging. Unique style and perspective. I seldom have time to pick up a book but a friend lent it to me and it stays with me. Had to purchase my own copy for a second read.
Date published: 2005-02-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Heartbreaking Indeed! I was immediately drawn to this book by its unique writing style and this was enough to keep me interested for the first few hundred pages. However, subsequently this novel became a tragic, sad, depressing novel that went no where fast and then had the nerve to end abruptly, affording no closure whatsoever. I am hesitant to recommend this book at all, as while the raw and emotive writing style is original, the novel itself is replete with self-loathing and lacking in event.
Date published: 2003-07-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Astounding I'm generally a pretty jaded reader, but this book will stay with me always. It does an amazing job of breaking down pretensions and barriers to connect with the reader on the rawest level. Wonderful.
Date published: 2003-05-22
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Nope! I'm glad to see that I wasn't the only one who thought this book was just a bunch of non-interesting ramblings, and an expensive waste (poor trees). I hesitate to give it a rating as high as a 1.
Date published: 2003-04-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely Amazing!!! I'm not much of a reader but I couldn't put this book down. Extremely well written and laugh outloud funny. A definite must read. It's filled with goodness.
Date published: 2002-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It is a heartbreaking work of staggering genius! This book is the most amazing thing I have ever read. I read it last year but I have not seen it since I last finished it, because i keep lending it to people. Anyone who enjoys reading should pick up this book!
Date published: 2002-04-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Genius Probably the best book I've ever read, and I read at least 5 books a month. Eggers writes the same way I think, sporadic and unconventional, but easy enough to follow. I recommend everyone read this book, and then lend it to at least one other person to read.
Date published: 2002-01-12
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not My cup of Tea I must admit to being totally defeated by this book. I found myself skimming and asking myself "Why am I still reading this? The answer is "I paid good money for it!" Dave Eggers tells the story of raising his younger brother when both his parents die from cancer. Just when I thought he was getting to the meat of the story he'd be off on a tangent involving his strange circle of friends or his life as a 20 something genxer. I found this book to be a complete waste of time and money on my part.
Date published: 2001-05-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Boring Have you ever read a best selling book and afterwards wondered why? Well, for me, this book was one of those. It is very well written - funny and heart-breaking at the same time. However, somewhere in the middle, I just couldn't take any more of the same navel fluff reflections. Although I did not finish the book, Mr. Eggers wrote it, so I can assume they lived happily ever after ...
Date published: 2001-05-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from NOT I did not find this to be heartbreaking or staggering genius (not even close to genius actually). Is it just me or is it someone's ramblings not interesting? Granted it's a sin that this family lost their parents so close together in such a way but I found him to be imature in his dealings with life and the responsibility towards his brother. This book is going to the Salvation Army for resale so that hopefully it can help someone's life in some way - although certainly not be reading it.
Date published: 2001-04-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An AMAZING Work ... I LOVE THIS BOOK! Reading it is like being inside the author's head, thinking his thoughts, feeling his feelings. I hope this is the first in a long line of books to come by Mr. Eggers.
Date published: 2001-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is REAL This is the kind of book that really opens your eyes. I have never read anything like it before. It's like Oprah meets the Rugged Reality of Real Life. And if you happen to be in your twenties (or close), it'll mean even more to you. An amazing and enjoyable book that you'll definately want to read again.
Date published: 2001-03-22

– More About This Product –

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

by Dave Eggers

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 496 pages, 8 × 5.2 × 0.84 in

Published: February 13, 2001

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0676973655

ISBN - 13: 9780676973655

Read from the Book

One Through the small tall bathroom window the December yard is gray and scratchy, the trees calligraphic. Exhaust from the dryer billows clumsily out from the house and up, breaking apart while tumbling into the white sky. The house is a factory. I put my pants back on and go back to my mother. I walk down the hall, past the laundry room, and into the family room. I close the door behind me, muffling the rumbling of the small shoes in the dryer, Toph''s. "Where were you?" my mother says. "In the bathroom," I say. "Hmph," she says. "What?" "For fifteen minutes?" "It wasn''t that long." "It was longer. Was something broken?" "No." "Did you fall in?" "No." "Were you playing with yourself?" "I was cutting my hair." "You were contemplating your navel." "Right. Whatever." "Did you clean up?" "Yeah." I had not cleaned up, had actually left hair everywhere, twisted brown doodles drawn in the sink, but knew that my mother would not find out. She could not get up to check. My mother is on the couch. At this point, she does not move from the couch. There was a time, until a few months ago, when she was still up and about, walking and driving, running errands. After that there was a period when she spent most of her time in her chair, the one next to the couch, occasionally doing things, going out, whatnot. Finally she moved to t
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From the Publisher

"I think this book is kind of malleable. I''ve never really wanted to put it away and be done with it forever -- the second I first ''finished'' it, I wanted to dig back in and change everything around. So I''m looking forward to getting back into the text, and straightening and focusing and deleting. Most of all, I''m thrilled that Vintage will be letting me include all the cool chase scenes, previously censored." -- Dave Eggers

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 seven-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.

PAPERBACK EDITION -- 15% MORE STAGGERING - Eggers has written 15,000 additional words for the Vintage Canada edition, including an entirely new appendix.

About the Author

Dave Eggers lives in San Francisco, California.

From Our Editors

Within five weeks, a college senior loses both his parents to cancer and is bequeathed his eight-year-old brother. Having finished college and moved to Berkeley, Calif., with his little brother, Toph, he tries to be a father. Despite the responsibilities of cooking, cleaning and bill-paying, he is still just a playful older brother. Unique, entertaining, self-deprecating, satirical yet startlingly beautiful, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is a passionate and funny true story of a troubled family. Might magazine founder and McSweeney's editor Dave Eggers recounts his heartwrenching experiences in this darkly humorous, self-conscious anti-memoir.

Editorial Reviews

"For 40 years readers have been waiting around on J. D. Salinger to send down a new manuscript from high atop his reclusive Vermont mountain. Well, the vigil is over and we can forget about hearing from Salinger. He''s been replaced by a stunning new writer. His name is Dave Eggers." — Tampa Tribune "Like any good trip, it''s not the destination, but what''s around the bend that counts. [And Eggers] takes us on a trip where he throws his hat out the window, rather than into the ring--to a place between autobiography and fiction, a place just off a bumpy road where truth is perhaps most comfortable. Exhilarating! Stunning! Heartbreaking! A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius amazes constantly." — The Globe and Mail "Eggers unfailingly captures the reader with gorgeous conviction." —Lynn Crosbie, The Toronto Star "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 "Scathingly perceptive and hysterically funny.... Eggers reveals a true, and truly broken, heart." — People "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 Ze
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Employee Review

This is the story of Dave Eggers, a 21-year-old college student who leaves school to raise his eight-year-old brother after their parents both succumb to cancer within five weeks of each other. If you're looking here for a story of tears, inspiration and empowerment, try one of Oprah's lachrymal literary offerings. This is unlike any memoir I have ever read. Eggers' story is funny, absurd, clever, self-indulgent and unexpectedly moving. It's not perfect by any means, but it comes close to fulfilling the audacious promise of its title.

Bookclub Guide

"I think this book is kind of malleable. I''ve never really wanted to put it away and be done with it forever -- the second I first ''finished'' it, I wanted to dig back in and change everything around. So I''m looking forward to getting back into the text, and straightening and focusing and deleting. Most of all, I''m thrilled that Vintage will be letting me include all the cool chase scenes, previously censored." -- Dave Eggers

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 seven-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.

PAPERBACK EDITION -- 15% MORE STAGGERING - Eggers has written 15,000 additional words for the Vintage Canada edition, including an entirely new appendix.

1. The material preceding the main text in this book—called "front matter" in the publishing business—has been entirely taken over by the author, including the usually very official copyright page. Why might the publisher have allowed Eggers to take this unconventional route? Why does Eggers work so extensively at disrupting the formality of publication and his status as an author?

2. On the copyright page we find the statement, "This is a work of fiction"; and at the beginning of the preface Eggers writes, "This is not, actually, a work of pure nonfiction." What point is Eggers making by casting all these doubts on the veracity of the book''s contents? In his discussion about the current popularity of memoirs [pp. xxiÐxxiii], Eggers admits that the book is a memoir but encourages his readers to think of it as fiction. What is the difference, in a work of literature, between fact and fiction, and does it matter?

3. In the remarkable acknowledgments section, which is a brilliant critique and discussion of the book as a whole, Eggers points out that "the success of a memoir . . . has a lot to do with how appealing its narrator is" [p. xxvii]. What is appealing about Eggers as a narrator?

4. Eggers notes that the first major theme of the book is "The Unspoken Magic of Parental Disappearance" [p. xxviii]. It is a psychological truism that most children occasionally fantasize about being orphans, because parents often stand in the way of their children''s desires. Along these lines, Eggers admits that the loss of his parents is "accompanied by an undeniable but then of course guilt-inducing sense of mobility, of infinite possibility" [p. xxix]. Does he ever find a way to resolve his conflicting emotions of grief and guilt?

5. If it is true, as Eggers points out, that he is not the first person whose parents died or who was left with the care of a sibling, what makes his story unique?

6. Eggers worries that because he is neither a woman nor a neat, well-organized person [pp. 81, 99], people assume that he can''t take care of Toph. Which aspects of Eggers'' parenting are most admirable? Which are most comic? What are the benefits and drawbacks of each aspect?

7. How do Eggers'' memories of his father compare to those about his mother? To what degree are his feelings about his parents resolved, or at least assuaged, through the act of writing this book?

8. Much of the central part of the book relates to the business of launching and producing Might magazine. What does this section reveal about the concerns, desires, and frustrations of thoughtful, energetic twenty-somethings in contemporary America?

9. Eggers expresses ambivalence about having written this book because he feels guilty about exploiting his family''s misfortune and exposing a private matter to the public. Among the epigraphs that Eggers considered, and then didn''t use, for the book are "Why not just write what happened?" (R. Lowell) and "Ooh, look at me, I''m Dave, I''m writing a book! With all my thoughts in it! La la la!" (Christopher Eggers) [p. xvii]. How do these two epigraphs crystallize the memoir writer''s dilemma?

10. Why does Eggers judge himself so harshly for returning to the family''s old house in Lake Forest and for trying to retrieve his mother''s ashes? Does the trip provide him and his story with a sense of closure, or just the opposite? Is there a central revelation to Eggers'' narrative, a strong sense of change or a significant development? Or would you say, on the contrary, that the book has the haphazardness and lack of structure that we find in real life?

11. Eggers refers, half-jokingly, half-seriously, to himself and Toph as "God''s tragic envoys" [p. 73]. Is it true, as Eggers suggests, that tragic occurrences give those to whom they happen the feeling of having been singled out for a special destiny? Is it common among those who have suffered intensely to expect some sort of recompense?

12. Recurring throughout the interview for MTV''s The Real World [chapter VI] is the image of what Eggers calls "the lattice." What does he mean by this, and does it amount to a kind of spiritual belief on his part?