What’s most amazing about Mr. Eggers’ very fine new book, what staggers the reader and justifies the book’s title, cover art and position on the New York Times bestseller list, is how thoroughly Mr. Eggers’ self-deprecating tone and narrative tricks suck the reader in. Mr. Eggers allows us to remain as wary of cheap sentiment as he himself clearly is, paying us the compliment of not presuming we’ll weep on cue, like Oprah’s studio audience. Mr. Eggers doesn’t rely on the facts of his family tragedy or on his readers’ too-often-taken-for-granted empathy. He dares to entertain us, and then, once we’ve let our guard down, his very fine new book breaks our motherfucking hearts.
There are so many reasons to dislike this super-hip, self-consciously ironic autobiography that it's something of a disappointment to report how wonderful it is...Of course, his book isn't for everyone (people who don't speak English will find it particularly oblique), but this may be the bridge from the Age of Irony to Some Other As Yet Unnamed Age that we've been waiting for.
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.
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.
Eggers's book, which goes a surprisingly long way toward delivering on its self-satirizing, hyperbolic title, is a profoundly moving, occasionally angry and often hilarious account of those odd and silly things, usually done in the name of Toph. Banished because of his catastrophe from the normalcy of American life, Eggers is forced to wander the globe, propelled by a mission and purpose seldom associated with Generation X, but with a seemingly paradoxical sense of absolute freedom. Instead of getting depressed, he and Toph get even, ''greedily cartwheeling,'' he writes, ''toward everything we are owed.''
Eggers has talent as a writer - but his true genius is for PR. He'd make a great circus barker. "I want everyone to witness my youth," he declares. "I am an orphan of America." 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.
It’s the type of book that makes you aware of the chasm between the way you see yourself and the way the rest of the world sees you. AHWOSG made me extremely uncomfortable. The parts I loved about the book were similar the parts I hated about myself. I realized the only way I could tell a story —even a fictional one — that felt honest was not to smooth over the rough edges. The rough edges were the story.
Literary self-consciousness and technical invention mix unexpectedly in this engaging memoir by Eggers, editor of the literary magazine McSweeney's and the creator of a satiric 'zine called Might, who subverts the conventions of the memoir by questioning his memory, motivations and interpretations so thoroughly that the form itself becomes comic. Despite the layers of ironic hesitation, the reader soon discerns that the emotions informing the book are raw and, more importantly, authentic.
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, concluding with a tiny gesture of hope the author no doubt considers brave given the vicissitudes he’s retailed in prose....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.
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.