A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

72%

20 Critic Reviews

"A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" may start off sounding like one of those coy, solipsistic exercises that put everything in little ironic quote marks, but it quickly becomes a virtuosic piece of writing, a big, daring, manic-depressive stew of book that noisily announces the debut of a talented -- yes, staggeringly talented new writer.
-NY Times

Synopsis

"Exhilarating….Profoundly moving, occasionally angry, and often hilarious….A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is, finally, a finite book of jest, which is why it succeeds so brilliantly" (The New York Times Book Review).


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.
 

About Dave Eggers

See more books from this Author
DAVE EGGERS is the editor of McSweeney's and a cofounder of 826 National, a network of nonprofit writing and tutoring centers for youth, located in seven cities across the United States. He is the author of four books, including What Is the What and How We Are Hungry.
 
Published February 12, 2013 by Simon & Schuster. 426 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction, Humor & Entertainment, History. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
All: 20 | Positive: 15 | Negative: 5

Kirkus

Above average
on May 20 2010

It isn’t—but it’s better than most novel-like objects created by our younger writers, and like them, this one is directly autobiographical, ironic, and self-referential...It is evidently hard to have been Eggers, though few readers will be satisfied with this nugget of hard-won wisdom in return for their investment of time and good will.

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Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Jan 12 2016

Though the book is marred by its ending--an unsuccessful parody of teenage rage against the cruel world--it will still delight admirers of structural experimentation and Gen-Xers alike.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Adam Begley on Jul 15 2000

His Heartbreaking Work is a mannerist flourish; it marks an especially self-conscious moment in the ongoing proliferation of those "memoir-sorts of books". Only sporadically is the reader wholly engaged as one is by an achieved work of art. Curious and at times compelling, this book is more like an artifact, a bright and blaring sign of the times.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Adam Begley on Jul 15 2000

Only sporadically is the reader wholly engaged as one is by an achieved work of art. Curious and at times compelling, this book is more like an artifact, a bright and blaring sign of the times.

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Book Reporter

Good
Reviewed by Liz Keuffer on Feb 13 2001

Throughout the story, Eggers cuts the pathos with a quirky wit, keeping the reader alternately crying and laughing. His unique situation of being young, hip, single, and a parent leads to some memorable scenes...A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS is an astonishing debut.

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AV Club

Above average
Reviewed by Joshua Klein on Mar 29 2002

The writing is never quite as clever or novel as in the virtuoso preface, but Eggers constantly finds ways to make even standard self-analysis interesting.

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AV Club

Above average
Reviewed by Joshua Klein on Mar 29 2002

While Staggering Genius is admittedly uneven, that's paradoxically part of its unpredictable charm: Eggers would never go about things the standard way, and the book—at times both heartbreaking and genius—ably reflects his idiosyncratic, hyper-casual, pop-culture-saturated worldview.

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Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Megan Harlan on Feb 25 2000

Eggers relates a sad, true story — when he was 21, his parents both died of cancer within five weeks of each other...Though too-clever literary devices (like a strange interview with an MTV Real World casting agent) run amok, his funny, furious insights into family tragedy reflect the complexity of emotion in irony done right.

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Pajiba

Good
Reviewed by Figgy on Aug 25 2009

This isn't a book for everyone. Eggers has a very loose style, with each chapter written in a different way--as an interview, as a long confusing rant, as an emotional confession...But it might frustrate you if you like something more straight forward...all I can say is check it out, you might end up loving it. Or not. But give it a chance.

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Pajiba

Above average
Reviewed by Sophia on Mar 12 2009

The author, Dave Eggers, tells the story of the time he spent in Berkeley and San Francisco in his twenties after his parents' death...But there's also more to the story than a simple recounting of the years with some tongue-in-cheek. Eggers sensitively explores why he's even writing a story about his parents, his life, his friends.

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Teen Reads

Good
Reviewed by Liz Keuffer on Feb 13 2001

A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS is an astonishing debut. But still, there's that title. Heartbreaking? Definitely. Staggering? Sure. Genius? I'd say.

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Nights and Weekends

Good
Reviewed by Deborah Leiter on Jan 18 2013

The story is interesting, but the mode of telling it is the greater attraction. The book is quite confessional. The author certainly tells his thoughts and feelings, from grief to humor, anger to release and guilt...This memoir has become my new “make-everyone-I-know-that-wouldn’t-be-offended-by-some-profanity-read-this” book.

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Seven Ponds

Good
Reviewed by Dana Sitar on Mar 23 2012

...author Dave Eggers chronicles his experience raising his younger brother Toph after the family loses each of their parents to cancer...I would recommend it especially to Bay Area readers, who will best understand the recurring local references; but also to anyone interested in a very unique account of life after a loss.

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Brothers Judd

Below average
Reviewed by brothersjudd on May 17 2001

The book itself uses a host of postmodernist, ironical, satirical, self-conscious, etc...which are rather hackneyed and, given the ostensible topic of the book (his family tragedy), quite off-putting...I finished the book unstaggered and heart unbroken, but grudgingly forced to admit that the literary world has a potential new genius...

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Raging Biblioholism

Below average
on Jan 23 2016

...his twentysomethings novel? I expect more from my literature than “look how smart I am” – and so this fails on nearly every level.

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She Treads Softly Blog

Above average
Reviewed by Lori L on Jan 22 2009

I'm rating this a 3.5 for me, fulling understanding that others are going to rate it a 5 or a 1, that I would have rated it a five with some editing, and that I am not and never was Eggers' target audience.

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Sophisticated Dorkiness

Good
Reviewed by Kim on May 12 2008

I read this book almost nonstop most of the way through because Eggers’ style has a way of drawing you in and making you demand to know what happens next. But as I approached then end I had to slow down because I didn’t want it to be over...Eggers is angry, self-absorbed, and attention seeking, but he’s also understandable and sympathetic.

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http://www.januarymagazine.com

Above average
Reviewed by Janice A. Farringer on Apr 29 2000

Self indulgent, whiney, age appropriate: these are the words that spring to mind after reading Dave Eggers' new autobiographical book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. But the book is very appealing anyway.

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The Hipster Conservative

Above average
Reviewed by Paul Odradek on Apr 01 2012

These first 45 pages are stunning, breathtaking, straightforward and raw and un-ironic. It’s the kind of writing that might come about only once in a generation. It’s heartbreaking, and it’s undoubtedly the work of a genius. If only the entire book were like this.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Feb 01 2000

"A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" may start off sounding like one of those coy, solipsistic exercises that put everything in little ironic quote marks, but it quickly becomes a virtuosic piece of writing, a big, daring, manic-depressive stew of book that noisily announces the debut of a talented -- yes, staggeringly talented new writer.

Read Full Review of A Heartbreaking Work of Stagg... | See more reviews from NY Times

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Michael Manley 18 Aug 2013

Rated the book as 4 out of 5

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