Saturday, January 30, 2010
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius - again
At times, Dave Eggers stream-of-consciousness writing makes me uncomfortable. He actually says the things that I often find myself thinking, but would never say aloud for the simple fact that to expose my crazy thoughts to the world would likely result in my getting alienated from my social network and cast straight into The Cuckoo's Nest. It was stressful to read this man's thoughts as they vacillate between self-loathing and self-love, from being caged in by responsibility to being righteously validated by it.
Brazen Careerist blogger Penelope Trunk once wrote: "...the difference between a blog post that reads like a diary entry and a blog post that someone would want to read is usually just time passing." The same should be said for memoirs. At bookclub, many of my fellow readers expressed frustration with the tumultuous writing and layer upon layer of life and thoughts and thoughts about the life and thoughts about the thoughts about the life. Get on with it already! they seemed to want to scream. I felt the same for much of the text. And then suddenly, someone would speak out-of-character to deliver a monologue of wisdom that allows Eggers to express growth and learning that he could not express himself. His own character within the narrative could not have expressed it because the story is written so you feel taken along with him on the journey that was his early-twenties AS IT HAPPENED. (In first-person present-tense for all you lit-analysts.)
Why I think this book works is that indeed there was time that passed between the living of this period of the writer's life and the forming of the literature. He learned! He grew! He developed and was able to recognize some of the errors of his youthful ways! The backbone of any good character-story is such and Eggers successfully implements it, in a sneaky, unexpected way. Bravo.
Where the piece fails I think, is that we are not given a like-able protagonist. I found myself wanting him to pull it together, but not necessarily wishing any other success. Correct me if I am wrong here, but shouldn't you be the most like-able character in your own story?
As I mentioned in my first-half review, text within A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is so thick with narcissism as to be ironic, however - the book is so long that that the irony devolves back into nonsensical narcissism until the very end of the book. Not good for readers with short attention spans likely to quit a story in favor of one that appears better.
A coterie of articles that validate the truths within the narrative along with a rant from the author about being a "sell out" can be found here and here. Brace yourself, the truths are as sad and shocking as any heartbreaking work of fiction. More so because fiction, they are not.