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A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (Vintage) [Library Binding]

Dave Eggers
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
Price: 14.24 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

3 April 2008 Vintage
National Bestseller 

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 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.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is an instant classic that will be read in paperback for decades to come. The Vintage edition includes a new appendix by the author.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Library Binding: 48 pages
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1435236696
  • ISBN-13: 978-1435236691
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,049,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dave Eggers is the author of six previous books, including "Zeitoun," a nonfiction account a Syrian-American immigrant and his extraordinary experience during Hurricane Katrina and "What Is the What," a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award. That book, about Valentino Achak Deng, a survivor of the civil war in southern Sudan, gave birth to the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, run by Mr. Deng and dedicated to building secondary schools in southern Sudan. Eggers is the founder and editor of McSweeney's, an independent publishing house based in San Francisco that produces a quarterly journal, a monthly magazine ("The Believer"), and "Wholphin," a quarterly DVD of short films and documentaries. In 2002, with Nínive Calegari he co-founded 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for youth in the Mission District of San Francisco. Local communities have since opened sister 826 centers in Chicago, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Ann Arbor, Seattle, and Boston. In 2004, Eggers taught at the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and there, with Dr. Lola Vollen, he co-founded Voice of Witness, a series of books using oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world. A native of Chicago, Eggers graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in journalism. He now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.

Product Description

Amazon Review

At the age of 22, Dave Eggers became both an orphan and a "single mother" when his parents died within five months of one another of unrelated cancers. In the ensuing sibling division of labour, Dave is appointed unofficial guardian of his eight-year-old brother, Christopher. The two live together in semi-squalor, decaying food and sports equipment scattered about, while Eggers worries obsessively about child-welfare authorities, molesting babysitters and his own health. His child-rearing strategy swings between making his brother's upbringing fun and performing bizarre developmental experiments on him. (Case in point: his idea of suitable bedtime reading is John Hersey's Hiroshima.) A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is also, perhaps less successfully, about being young and hip and out to conquer the world (in an ironic, media-savvy, Generation-X way, naturally). In the early 1990s, Eggers was one of the founders of the very funny Might Magazine, and he spends a fair amount of time here on Might, the hipster culture of San Francisco's South Park and his own efforts to get on to MTV's Real World. This sort of thing doesn't age very well--but then, Eggers knows that. There's no criticism you can come up with that he hasn't put into A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius already. "The book thereafter is kind of uneven," he tells us regarding the contents after page 109, and while that's true, it's still uneven in a way that is funny and heartfelt and interesting. All this self-consciousness could have become unbearably arch. It's a testament to Eggers's skill as a writer--and to the heartbreaking particulars of his story--that it doesn't. Eggers comes from the most media-saturated generation in history--so much so that he can't feel an emotion without the sense that it's already been felt for him. What may seem like postmodern noodling is really just Eggers writing about pain in the only honest way available to him. Oddly enough, the effect is one of complete sincerity, and--especially in its concluding pages--this memoir as metafiction is affecting beyond all rational explanation. --Mary Park --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


" This is a beautifully ragged, laugh-out-loud funny and utterly unforgettable book." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The funniest book ever 14 Feb 2001
By A Customer
I disagree with the other reviewers - I thought this book more than lived up to the hype - unlike some other books, like 'White Teeth' - how did that win the Guardian First Novel over this? This book is a hundred times better - it utterly lives up to its title.
I've never quite read a book structured like this before - the acknowledgements themselves, as long as they are, had me in hysterics and their lightness was a brilliant contrast to the actual 'book' which within 3 pages had me nearly in tears. It's one of those literary novels which is accessible and even better funny. And the word 'post modern' does apply but, (and this must be a record) it manages to do that too without being pretentious. It's utterly readable and disgestible and will you have flicking pages. There are passages of wonderful comedy and passages of raw emotion that punches you in the gut. Amazing, quite unusual and deserves to be a big bestseller.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is exactly what it says it is. 14 Feb 2001
By Sick Mouthy VINE VOICE
Dave Eggers is a genius, and this is one of the most wonderful, funny, disturbing, touching, plain bloody fantastic books I have ever read. When he concentrates on basic prose he writes with splendid fluidity, passion, and attention to detail, as rousing and indignant as Salinger, more so. And when he breaks into his "rambling postmodern indulgence" bits, he does so brilliantly too, funny, heartfelt, incredibly moving. The relationship between him and his younger brother is painted wonderfully, and his paranoia and narcissism are rendered with amazing humanity. Maybe this book isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it should be. It is a fantastic achievement, and I thoroughly recommend it to everyone.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice book if you can stomach it.... 14 May 2001
Ok, so I agree in parts with the more negative reviews. This book is very self-involved, at times self pitying, ranting, rambling, annoying even. But take a step back: you don't have to love the main character to love the book. I'm sure I would throttle Dave Eggers if I had to live with him. But I don't, and his book is, if not genius, then original, poetic, touching, real and very funny. Tolerate Eggers' more "self devouring" moments and enjoy the book. You may dislike the author by the end, but this book will stir you to laugh or just think, nonetheless.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of My New Favorites 2 Sep 2004
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is the topsoil of a tragedy, the first layers of earth pushed aside in a painful personal excavation, where the treasure seems to remain deeply buried.
This first book by author Dave Eggers is a memoir. Eggers tells of the years following the deaths of both his parents - deaths which occurred within 5 weeks of one another - and how, at the age of 21, he became his younger brother Toph's guardian.
Eggers uses a highly self-conscious style of writing - confiding his fears of his own early death, terrors that something untoward will happen to his brother, or the sensations of his own flapping genitalia when running naked for a photo shoot. But his utter preoccupation with here-and-now mundanity or with imagined future horrors are but his shield against the true conscious experience of his own grief.
Although the story of AHWOSG rests upon the tragic reality of parental deaths, ironically there is no mourning. There were no burials, no gravestones, no remains to be grieved over. Soon after these deaths, Dave and Toph move from Lake Forest, IL to Berkeley. Dave nominally ensures that Toph is fed and clothed and schooled, but without embodied parental authority, "in a world with neither floor nor ceiling," the two live in semi-anarchy, enjoying the freedom to eat junk food and drive to the beach and play frisbee whenever the impulse might strike.
Unable to see logic in his parents' deaths, he sublimates his need for order and justice into the making of a magazine, Might. The mission of Might is to take "a formless and mute mass of human potential and...to mold it into a political force." This counter-cultural magazine is designed to be both provocative and empowering, but over time it becomes more shocking and in-your-face.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tragically hysterical 29 July 2001
By A Customer
I had been warned the book would literally lose the plot after the first few chapters, so relished the early parts, waiting for it to deteriorate. It never did for me. I read the entire thing, notes, acknowledgements et al and loved it. Yes it does ramble but Eggers writes as he thinks which I found totally engrossing. His often subtle references to his relationship with his brother were gutting, contrasting to his aggressive, laddish, but hilarious accounts of life in his 20s. To me, the book is brave, self-conscious and was like living inside his head for a few days; which is why over editing would have ruined it. In spite of the apparent arrogance of the title, I think Eggers would be genuinely bemused that anyone had actually spent half an hour giving discussing his book on this web site. A word of advice - definitely read the notes afterwards, they put a lot of things into perspective.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars marmite 7 April 2002
Like marmite you either love this book or you hate it and i am pleased to say that i adored it, from the first page to the last it was an absorbing, funny, tragic and wonderful book. I loved the rambling, unedited text and highly recommend it. i do agree with the earlier reviewers who said that reading the end bit (mistakes we knew we were making) did help to put the rest of the book into perspective...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars At times brilliant, at others annoying! Sorry.
This book doesn't work well as an audiobook.

I was intrigued by the title, by the story - the recounting (with embellishments) of a twenty-something man who takes... Read more
Published 8 months ago by K. J. Noyes
5.0 out of 5 stars The title says it all
This is a book which seems to be written by a very young and inexperienced person struggling through life and dealing with tragedy, disadvantage and responsibility long before he... Read more
Published 9 months ago by CAROLE WILLIS
5.0 out of 5 stars A workbreaking stag of genial heartiness
Well I know that I'm a little behind the curve here, what with this book being over 10 years old now, but I only just read it and, my friends, if you still have it on your list,... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Shirley Ramone
5.0 out of 5 stars I didn't think I was going to like it, but I was very wrong
The idea of someone who is completely unknown (at the time it was written) thinking his story is worthy of being heard strikes me as somewhat egotistical and presumptous. Read more
Published 17 months ago by BrynG
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
Wonderful, inspiring and funny novel that does at times ramble and extend sections for no apparent reason but that is part of the charm. Eggers has not surpassed this in my view.
Published 19 months ago by D
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much work
Eggers' unique style will make you laugh, suck you in and his descriptions of people, places and situations are witty, precise and refreshing. Read more
Published 22 months ago by JennyB
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificently moving
I loved this book. The style of writing like a garbled train of thought is just like listening to your own subconscious ( well mine anyway.. Read more
Published on 28 May 2012 by Jakimhall
3.0 out of 5 stars Overhyped
o start off I found Dave Eggers style quite funny, the chapter with his mother dying was actually strangelly amusing (and yes I know that sounds strange) it was just the particular... Read more
Published on 1 April 2012 by Lucybird
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read!
Excellent book!! Very originally written. Took me a long time to read, but really enjoyed it! True story of Dave Eggers who raised his nine year old brother after losing both his... Read more
Published on 7 Mar 2012 by Laura82
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read.
Fantastic book. Dave Eggers is an excellent writer and the tragic story is told in an amusing and, as the title implies, heartbreaking way. Definitely one to recommend to others.
Published on 5 Mar 2012 by Jonni I
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