A Reader's Guide to Unfamiliar Literature
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A Good Place To Start

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius 7

A Bad Place To Start

You Shall Know Our Velocity 5
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius 1


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Categorization is odious. There is tremendous overlap among genres. These pigeonholes are offered only as a convenience.

Dave Eggers

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Please consider recommending where to begin reading this author, or where not to. A few words about your experiences reading this author and why you make the recommendations you do will be helpful to other users. If you are the author or have studied this author extensively, please say so.

petaluma February 1st, 2006 02:32 PM PST

If you begin with A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius as I did, you may also end with A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Highly overrated. That said, I like to read first novels by young authors and will give him another chance someday (maybe).

fergusje February 9th, 2006 11:58 AM PST

I loved a Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. After having had John Irving as my favorite author due to A Prayer for Owen Meany for many years, this surpassed it. Brilliant in its honesty and freshness of voice. It seems that only his work in McSweeney's has held up to the same caliber of work.

texan1510 December 19th, 2006 03:00 PM PST

It seems that there are two kinds of readers right now: people who think McSweeney's writers are gods, and people who wish everyone who ever contributed to anything even remotely connected to Dave Eggers' publishing company would drop dead and be sent to some kind of hell for writers.

The McSweeney's attitude is a little self-congratulatory: "We are not taking writing seriously, and if you don't like it, I guess it's just too over your head." Dave Eggers, who started McSweeney's, is this attitude brought to life. With a book deal.

Dave probably wrote A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius with a smug smile on his face, patting himself on the back with whichever hand wasn't holding the pen. If you can get through it, you can get through any of Eggers' work, but a lot of people I know give up once they get to the MTV interview.


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Eggers's first book was a memoir (with fictionalized elements), A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000). It focuses on the author's struggle to raise his younger brother in San Francisco following the sudden deaths of his parents. The book quickly became a bestseller, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. The novel was praised for its original, idiosyncratic self-referencing, and for several original stylistic elements. Some editions were published with a lengthy, apologetic postscript entitled "Mistakes We Knew We Were Making". In 2002 he published his first novel, You Shall Know Our Velocity. An expanded and revised version was released as Sacrament in 2003 and then retitled You Shall Know Our Velocity for its Vintage imprint distribution. He has since also published a collection of short stories, How We Are Hungry.

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