Dave Eggers’s “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” and another incarnation of my cynical misanthropy

I didn’t like this book. I found it irritating, twee, and everything wrong with the post-Wallace obsession over authenticity. I became irritated multiple times while reading it. This does not mean it is not a good book.

For the longest time I was innately distrustful of the whole “it’s fine, it’s just not for me” , critical response. If something is shitty, I thought, we should not hesitate to call it shitty. Not that we should dedicate our time and effort to prostilitizing its shittyness, but if somebody brings up, say, the band Pavement, I would be dishonest if I were to say anything other than “Pavement is not a very good band”. This now seems to be an overly binary paradigm. There’s all kinds of shit that I’m not going to care for that is objectively good, but isn’t accessible to me because of my cultural experiences, or because the context in which a particular piece of art functions is a context I am somehow removed from, or any other number of reasons. Sometimes something is good in an objective way that I can objectively see, but I still don’t care for it, or even dislike it intensely. Like this book.

Eggers is a very good writer. I think that’s the only thing that kept me reading -the conceit of the book is completely uninteresting to me, and its affects are legitimately off-putting, but the voice (although occasionally irritating) is redemptive. The rather varied nature of the work is a strong asset here as well; the different sections kept things moving along and prevented any of his stylistic elements from going stale. It’s a damn impressive bit of work, and I’m sure the diverse passages will pull in different people in different ways.

Recommendation: Try it. Give it at least 50 or 60 pages from the actual start of the narrative. If it doesn’t do anything, at least give it a skim and see if any fishhooks stick into your brain


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