A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

Mike’s review

I read this the first time after I had to put my cat Willie down. It was incredibly comforting. Hopefully it’ll help me lose my girlfriend too.

Preface talks of cemeteries and I wonder, Would she come to my funeral if I died right now (not suicidal, I swear) (she would have)(I am pitiful).

“If people are shooting people from cars, if people are tossing rocks down from overpasses, surely [I] will be the next victim.”

“[T]here will be standing, in a trenchcoat, a man, with a gun, who will fire one bullet, straight into him, killing him instantly, and deservedly, both in keeping with his role as the object of so much wrath in general, and for his innumerable sins, both Catholic and Karmic.” Can’t imagine why I related to this before (as this is written word, I’ll point out that that was sarcasm).

“because we’re in a certain place [San Francisco], are lucky, feel lucky even though it’s been only a few years since the hills burned, since the highways collapsed” Greatest Worst Place On Earth.

The first time I red this, I pictured the pill scene at my recently exed-girlfriend’s apartment building, which it plausibly could have been and so now, I’m forced to do the same. (Coincidentally, when I first moved here, I almost moved into that building as well. It’s not like it’s that huge of a building where that probability would go up just because of the large number of units either.)

Eggers is a smidge Midwesterny racist, but so am I.

I wonder if being younger made this better. Before, I thought him grandiose and ideal and revolutionary. Now I think he doesn’t take himself seriously (though he certainly reminds me of myself at times). If he would only buckle down and focus, that kid could really make something of himself (again with the sarcasm…who doesn’t take oneself seriously here?).

Valerie’s response

Very sorry to hear there wasn’t a makeup patch with the ladylove… I admire the attempt to drown oneself in literature. As opposed to the plethora of other vices available. Books will never hurt you.

I read this book based upon a trusted bookish friend’s recommendation and it didn’t let me down. Though I was intially turned off by the smug title and Eggers’ cocky attitude in the media hype surrounding it when it first came out.

I remember finding it sweetly self-deprecating. He definitely doesn’t take himself seriously — and THAT’S OKAY — it’s a legit self-defense mechanism in a wacky world of weirdos who take themselves WAAAAY too seriously.

I don’t recall the pill scene but I have to comment that is a bizarre coincidence about the building you almost lived in being the same one your ex lived in. But I can’t tell you if it means anything. Just that it’s unusual.

I’ve meant to read his other books… I actually was recently lent one by a friend called What is the What, a title I like a lot more than AHWOSG. The book is about life in Sudan from the point of a Sudanese man (nonfiction). Its proceeds go to the man’s foundation, which is a pretty unsmug of a thing for a lowly writer to do, in my opinion.

Since you are rereading it, I might have to give it another shot. Though maybe based on your review of it not being as good this time, I should just let it glow in my memory and move on to his later works. As you will allow your beloved to resonate in remembrance and look forward to new affairs of the heart — I hope.

Mike’s response

I’ve tried the other vices. They hurt. There’s still food. Nothing like a bag of Dorito’s (who is absolutely a sponsor of this blog)

There aren’t that many places to live in Oakland that are affordable and you won’t get shot. I now live next door to an old friend’s house that I’d been to and forgotten (forgotten means blacked out) and behind another friend’s old house (where I also blacked out and broke a door I said I would fix and never did) too.

I reallyy loved this the first time. I’ve held his other books in my hands at bookstores many times, but have never picked anything up. I have some problem with the fact that they’re accounts of other’s lives. I don’t know why. By all accounts AHWOSG is non-fictiony (probably as much so as the others) and I enjoyed it, so I should enjoy the others. Just can’t bring myself to do it. Let me know how it goes for you so I can get over this hurdle.


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