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'Staggering Genius,' indeed staggering

August 31, 2010 - Meg Alexander

Dave Eggers' memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, was indeed a staggeringly good read.

The reason I know this, if nothing else, is the number of times I was interrupted while trying to finish it. Always, always, always, when I am reading a good book — a great book — I am interrupted in the final chapter, most often the last page. Eggers' novel was no exception.

All the same, despite the distractions, the book was more than satisfying, like a well balanced meal, emotionally and intellectually challenging, and damn tasty too. (Please forgive the analogy — I just realized how hungry I am.)

The memoir begins with a vivid scene in which the author's mother is dying of cancer, and the graphic nature of his narration carries through to the end. Whether Eggers is watching — or rather, trying not to watch — a man urinating in a sink in a public restroom, accosting a group of Mexicans for supposedly stealing his wallet, or handling his mother's cremains, Eggers strips himself naked for the reader to see all his thoughts and feel all his feelings, even as he continually questions his own emotionally voyeuristic tendancies.


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