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A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers is a "creative" non-fiction memoir.

The author begins his story as a young man about age 20 whose father and mother die of cancer 5 months apart. He's left to raise his 7 year old brother. He suggests that parts of his writing is fiction. Ah, well. I suppose any autobiography writer doesn't remember all the details and has to make up some parts.

Some people in my book reading group didn't like it. The first chapter is pretty graphic in descriptions of his caring for his mother in her last days. They would have preferred it to be a cleaned up version without what they considered the awful reality of his experience.

They also objected to use the F word through his descriptions of how he and his friends related as they enter into adulthood with one another.  In his immaturity, his saving grace is he is very careful to raise his little brother with high standards protecting him from growing up too soon. He takes special care in attending parent teacher meetings at school, for example, even though he worried that he might lose his brother due to people thinking him an inappropriate guardian because of his age.

Yet, of course they still related as brothers rather than a parental figure and child.

He doesn't have any opportunity to grieve or have closure, yet it's all expressed in his behavior throughout the book. Life has to be lived. His responsibilities come first. It's difficult for a young man who hasn't reached maturity.

It appears to me that the author is a bonafide manic-depressive with a little bit of paranoid tendencies. Either that, or he is in permanent panic mode because of his circumstances. Yet he copes and is successful enough to hold it together eventually, and in collaboration of friends, sets up his own business.

I really loved the book because the writer has an interesting prose style that goes against anything we've ever been taught is the standard way to write. I was fascinated by his style.

I also liked the book because a great part of it takes place right where I live, in the San Francisco bay area. I'm not sure readers in other parts of the country would relate to his descriptions of neighborhoods and travels in the region which  viscerally touch me.

Hope I didn't share too much.

Read what happens to Dave Eggers after he reaches maturity

You also might like to read chapter one in the NY Times.

My photos are San Francisco scenes. First is, Lombard Street. Second is the Dutch Windmill. Third is the Golden Gate Bridge.

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