I’ve read this book before. I will read this book again, probably many times. Writing an overly positive review without sounding too schmucky is hard, so I’ll keep this one pretty short. If you haven’t read Eggers before, I highly encourage you too. His style really sticks with you, be it fiction or non. His most recent book (A Hologram for the King) came out last summer and was on plenty 2012 top ten lists. This book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (AHWOSG), is still my favorite. And I admit, I’ve read pretty much everything he’s ever written. I’ve bought books based solely on the fact that he has written the forward. So, recognize my slight obsession, and on the one hand, take this glowing review with a grain of salt. On the other hand, READ THIS NOW.
This book is a memoir, though as Eggers notes, time is often compressed or slightly rearranged and dialogue is reconstructed. The books breaks the fourth wall at several points (most notably when his brother Toph busts out of character to make grand declarations). Toph, aka Christopher Eggers, is Dave’s little brother. Super brief plot summary: Parents die, kids move to San Francisco, Dave struggles with being a young man in his twenties in a blossoming city while simultaneously being a father-figure to his brother (who is a decade younger). This is the nineties, when SF was tech-booming, hipsters weren’t labeled yet but were certainly a thing, and everyone wanted to heard.
Well, Dave succeeded. His time in SF was a struggle, and the years afterwards too. But he pieced this book together after years of sorrow and hardship and came up with a masterpiece. He deftly switches among amazing imagery, clever dialogue, rollicking ranting prose, and all sorts of styles in between. Its a style all his own, and he nails it. I don’t know much about labeling books, but this a very contemporary book (PoMo if you will). I read somewhere once that this book is a perfect monument to the 90’s—I’m on board with that statement. I’m about to get oddly tangential here, so don’t listen any longer. Just check this out. And if you’ve read it, maybe read it again. Then read everything else by Eggers. Then read it again. (too much? sorry, all you non-Eggers loving chumps). Whew, this one really got away from me.