Friday, January 1, 2010

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

I'm cheating a little.

First day of the new year and I'm already justifying the chocolate cake. Ahh well, that is the nature of New Years Resolutions, is it not?

But this time, I think it is okay. I am giving myself a head start on The Year of 100 Books by counting Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius as book numero uno even though I am already half-way through it and started it last week. I'm not allowed to read the second half until after January 15th anyway because that is when my bookclub meets and we're splitting this one into two chunks because its kind of long.

So far, I'm cautiously optimistic. The first premise of the book is depressing, it being a memoir of the time when both of the author's parents died of cancer when he was 21. (At least I think it is a memoir - at this point I'm not entirely sure whether Dave Eggers the Author and Dave Eggers the Character are two different people. Or whether it is actually Dave Eggers the Caricature that narrates the story.) Either way, the internal dialogue of the Author-Character is so completely chaotic that you almost can't ruminate on his sad situation without missing something, which is just as well because I really don't like depressing books.

The first part of the book, as written by a twenty-something self-nominated Voice Of A Generation, is so completely narcissistic that I cannot decide if I love it because it is so unabashedly representative of those of us in our 20s growing up in the 90's and 2000's, speaking with clarity about the complex issues that we balance in our own little pieces of America. I also might hate it because it represents the worst of the worst self-involved, self-centered products of a generation who has been called out on its sense of entitlement more often than I care to remember.

Page 193: "...I won't apologize for having been brought up in what was, at least in my part of town, a pretty simple suburb - trees and a creek, nice parks. It's not like we had a choice, that at eight or nine, whenever, we could have left home, moved somewhere less horribly fraught with this hideous prosperity."

At this point, I'm hoping that the narrative is all completely ironic, and therein lies the Staggering Genius of this Heartbreaking Work. Otherwise, how could it possibly have won so many awards and have been praised by so many respected people? Then again, it wouldn't be the first time that the masses have missed a point.

Its entirely possible that I'm missing a point. I'm curious to hear what the girls in my bookclub have to say about it.

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