A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
by Dave Eggers


Amazon's review says:

    At the age of 22, Eggers became both an orphan and a "single mother" when his parents died within five months of one another of unrelated cancers. In the ensuing sibling division of labor, Dave is appointed unofficial guardian of his 8-year-old brother, Christopher. The two live together in semi-squalor, decaying food and sports equipment scattered about, while Eggers worries obsessively about child-welfare authorities, molesting babysitters, and his own health. His child-rearing strategy swings between making his brother's upbringing manically fun and performing bizarre developmental experiments on him. (Case in point: his idea of suitable bedtime reading is John Hersey's Hiroshima.)

Dave Eggers takes us on a tour of what's going through his head, usually something along the lines of "God I sing great in the shower" or "Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. The babysitter is probably cutting my brother into tiny chunks and preparing to roast them, with onions, on the barbeque. Fuck." Dave's inner dialogue sounds real. It's so rare to encounter what's really going through one's mind. I recall sitting on the floor of my dorm room sophmore year at Princeton, taking apart a broken stereo receiver just for the hell of it. When a roommate asked what I was doing, I explained that I was dismantling the guidance system of a Nazi submarine and I had to get it done before it launched its torpedos. Dave would share something like that. Fuck yes.

I read A Heartbreaking Work because of a personal connection. When Dave and his brother Christopher's parents die, they move to Berkeley. Christopher ("Toph") enrolls at Black Pine Circle school. In my son Austin's class. Uta remembers Dave, Toph, and their sister Beth. At first they share a house a couple of blocks from here. Dave and Toph shoot baskets at the hoop three minutes from my house. They walk the streets I walk. Dave talked about an Open House at Black Pine that I attended, too. Cue "It's a small world after all."


Posted by Jay Cross at January 20, 2002 08:59 AM | TrackBack
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