On Dave Egger's novel
"A heartbreaking work of Staggering genius"
by Bill Meikle
It seems like in history there are novelists who have
come along and said 'If I'm going to make
this format relevant in this day and age, I'm going to have to reinvent
it'. I think that's what Dave Eggers
was up to in "A heartbreaking work of Staggering genius".
Reinventing the novel to keep it..um, novel.
I liked this book. You should read it.
At first I found it too harsh. I bet it took
me three months to get
through the grizzly first chapters. My brother who died of cancer was making
it hard to go through
Dave's loss of his parents to that disease in the beginning. Or was it the
reminder of my own mortality?
Of course it helped that for the first half of the book,
I though he was making it up. It was only half
way through that I realized I was witnessing reality T.V. in text land.
The closest first person story telling I ever experienced....
Once life got better with Dave and his family, I found
it easy to read. The relationship with him and his
little brother is written down in a masterful way. It's really funny.
I still tried to savour it, as I really don't get many
books I like that cross my path these days.. Dave writes with THE VOICE. I'm
not exactly sure what it is, but it's a literary thing that's been handed
down since stories got written down. Probably started a thousand years before
that, by a campfire. I'm glad Dave came along to pick it up...
I think he could write about anything, and because
he writes well, it would be good. I was starting to worry that the literary
tradition was reserved for people older than me. Dave is probably a few years
younger than me, and that's a kind of relief. It's cool seeing a torch passed
So what is this literary tradition he's
embodying? Certainly not just the use of first person.
I mean, Chacer put himself in Canterbury Tales, but first person was kind
of banned there, until
the 60s. At that point the novel became an expression of close personal
statements or at least
the novelist appeared in the novel again.
But how can it be a novel, if it's about the
real world? Why isn't that just non-fiction? Or journalism?
I'm not sure. I think it's about a commitment to the idea of art.
Standing naked and alone before the world and
trying to communicate a message.
A message that you feel more than know.
I like this book.