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...
      Narrative power.
      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 on...

         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.
       Living it.
       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.