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3.7 out of 5 stars76
3.7 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 14 February 2001
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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on 3 February 2013
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. So this is why I was expecting to not like this book; i.e. I wasn't expecting to like the author as a person.
The first 50 odd pages cover the decline and deaths of his parents, which I found rather dry, but it is really just setting the scene for what is to come. These deaths leave the author with the financial wherewithal to be independant at the age of 22. His 'problem' however is that he is also left largely responsible for his 7 year old younger brother. The tension between wanting to lead a 'normal' youthful existence and the overriding concerns for welfare of his brother (to whom he is clearly devoted) is central and touchingly portrayed. But, the reason I have given this book the full 5* is because it is one of only a handful of books that have ever made me literally laugh out loud. This was when he describes a nude photo shoot on a beach.
There is both anger and energy coming off the pages of this book, and whilst I can see at times it may come across as self-consciously pretentious in places, it is all done knowingly and I at least was ok with it all.

Read with an open mind, and be prepared to laugh a lot and (maybe) cry a little.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 29 October 2013
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 guardianship of his 9-year-old brother after both their parents die of cancers, just four months apart.

Eggers is clever. He uses verbal tricks and voices and styles that would have played better on paper than they did listening on CD, where sometimes they were confusing.

I did find some of the book very moving indeed. Especially the first part, as Eggers describes what it was like as his mother lay dying. Some parts though I admit I found boring and rambling. Toph, the little brother, is at times a lovely little character and at others little more than background. Though seeing Eggers as a parent struggling to get his child to school on time was amusing.

Hit and miss for me though, so a 3-star read.
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on 22 August 2001
Perhaps it's the corny, self indulgent title, but all thoughts of equally corny phrases spring to mind when summing up this book - 'a book for our generation', 'the book I've always wanted to write', blah blah blah. Don't listen to the hairsplitters who whinge about a lack of 'structure'. The genius of this book (and there is some there) is that it manages to convey tragedy and pathos through slightly cynical, incredibly self-conscious eyes. Which is exactly how 'our' (current twentysomethings) generation feels - both desensitised, seen-it-all before, alert to cliche and knowing cultural references - and idealistic, hopeful. In this it succeeds where 99.9% of contemporary fiction fails. Just read it!
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on 2 August 2014
I remember seeing this book around alot when it first came out, whomever was reading it would always have fun with the ironic title. What are you reading I would ask? A heart breaking work of staggering genius they would reply. Err okay, enough with the hyperbole, what's it called? Oh right I get it. Clever. Clever and slightly annoying. What's it about then? Umm, I'm not really sure yet, was the usual reply. Is it any good? Yeah it's pretty good, they'd say.

So what's it about? Well it's being young; the drive, passion, conviction and the uncertainty. It's also a memoire of the author's young life framed by the tragic deaths of his mother and father, both from cancer, within a year of each other, which left Dave Eggers, just 21 at the time, caring for his younger brother Toph (Christopher). And yeah it's pretty good.

I enjoyed the book, it's an assured, confident debut and the announcement of an important and energetic new voice but it is not without its faults. Eggers writes with enough skill and speed to keep things interesting but it's equally true that he has a talent for producing large amounts of words which don't actually say an awful lot. That the author admits as much in the lengthy post modern, self referencing introduction to the book does off set this somewhat, he gets to have his cake and eat it too. Eggers tells us quite directly that we shouldn't be reading the waffling intro, should skip straight to the start of the book proper and would probably be best advised to stop reading at page 130 or so. What to make of the fact that he is half right? That those first 100 odd pages are the better part of the book and that what comes after, while still worthwhile in my opinion, is at times rambling, self indulgent and even a little annoying? I don't really know. It's a curious balancing act. From the authors point of view he is clearly having great fun playing with these literary conventions. From the reader's side we have to decide if the writing is good enough and we like him enough to allow ourselves to enjoy this trickery, this joshing with our expectations. There is a sense that Eggers is being completely open and honest, he probably does think that large parts of the book are self indulgent rubbish, but then he also thought enough of it to plough through 400 plus pages and hock it to publishers.

It seems to me that the author's youth is the book's biggest problem and its greatest strength, again Eggers addresses this in the introduction. He writes of telling someone about his intention to write the very book we are reading and is asked why the hell he is writing a book about being a 20 something. No one cares about people in their twenties. They have nothing to say, people hate them, they have all that youth and vitality to waste and no wisdom, no life experience, nothing to tell us. I know, I've been twenty and like everyone else I was an idiot at the time. All you have is that fury, that impotent desire to make a difference, and no idea how to use it, and that fittingly enough is where the book excels. Eggers, as is clear from his quite staggering productivity in the 10-15 year since this book was first published, has more fury, energy and impotent rage than most. Driven by the death of his parents, especially his mother, who had so much more to give, was not ready to be taken and fought to her last breath; Eggers wants to do more, to fix everything that is broken, and to make a difference god damn it. It is a rousing call to arms, a somewhat self aggrandising display of all the things which are possible. I closed the final page of the book feeling invigorated and despite its faults I think that's pretty good reason to read it yourself.
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on 24 August 2013
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, DON'T HESITATE ANOTHER DAY.
Dave Eggers' debut novel/autobiog (part of it's joy and beauty is it's defiant refusal to fit a known category - man, it must have been a brave publisher that took this on) is a touching, funny document of life in the early days of the 21stC. This will be studied in years to come as a deeply revealing piece of social history. It helped that Eggers and I are pretty much the same age, and his description of life in the mid-nineties was achingly familiar, despite his taking place in California and mine in North London. The story, such as it is, deals with the sudden death of both the twenty-two year old Eggers' parents, and his struggle to get on with his life, a life that as a young man, he was just beginning. Oh, and now he has his 9 year old kid brother to look after too. Eggers struggles to forge a career as a writer and magazine producer and anything else he can turn his hand to, and this yields some highly comic moments as well as some insightful comments on the world of new media, that back then really was new. But it is the relationship between Eggers and his brother Toph where the 'heart-breaking genius' bit lies. They inhabit a world suddenly free from parental control and parental love, and stumble blindly together into their new life, skidding in their socks through the house, eating pizza and ice cream all day and night, and blowing off all the rules that might otherwise have helped or hindered them. As a parent, it sure made me stop and think about how I'm raising my own.
And then there are all the crazy acknowledgements and attempts to justify the parts where he strays for the truth - unique and delightful. Fans of the great David Foster Wallace will recognise the whole footnote style here.
But my favourite bit is just a little joke he likes to play when he receives the inevitable response from people as they learn about his circumstances:
"You're parents died! Oh I'm so sorry."
"It's okay, it wasn't your fault... or was it?"
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on 9 August 2000
I am genuinley really upset that I have finished the book, something I rarely do if I'm not drawn in. The author manages to be totally honest and even his most twisted thoughts are endeering, as somebody who has been through similar experiences, I never realised anyone could pinpoint the sense of tragic invincibility that death can sometimes leave in its wake. Its not sentimental, its funny and dark in places and real, and if anyone knows the authors mailing address, please let me know!
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on 22 May 2004
Judging from the reviews on this site, I expected a terrible book. But I was pleasantly surprised by A.H.W.O.S.G. I agree that the best parts involve the brotherly relationship between Dave and Toph and that sometimes the author goes off on tangents. However I couldn't help but notice that even these tangents were well written and interesting. Basically, I enjoyed the author's style which is extremely fluid and clear and unforced. Eggers is the best stylist I read in a while. The MTV stuff was a bit much, true, but show me any novel and I'll show you the crappy parts. And no book is perfect. There was enough emotion shining through the irony for this book to work for me. And Eggers doesn't labor at his humor as Burroughs does in Running With Scissors. It's a matter of taste ultimately, and I'm very happy that I read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. In fact, I haven't read a book I connected SO strongly to in a very long time. I also thank the guy who mentioned The Losers Club by Richard Perez -- another book I enjoyed
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on 23 July 2000
I am currently reading this book and I just can't put it down. I am finding this book very tearjerking and very heartfelt. I think that it is an perfect account of the way that somebody can feel when a loved one is going through this kind of experience. It is very sad in some parts and I just can't put this book down. I love reading this book and if anyone knows of a book quite like this one would they please let me know!
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on 23 July 2000
I am currently reading this book and I just can't put it down. I am finding this book very tearjerking and very heartfelt. I think that it is an perfect account of the way that somebody can feel when a loved one is going through this kind of experience. It is very sad in some parts and I just can't put this book down. I love reading this book and if anyone knows of a book quite like this one would they please let me know!
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