Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Heartbreaking work of staggering Genius

And we will be ready, at the end of every day will be ready, will not say no to anything, will try to stay awake while everyone is sleeping, will not sleep, will make the shoes with the elves, will breathe deeply all the time, breathe in all the air full of glass and nails and blood, will breathe it and drink it, so rich, so when it comes we will not be angry, will be content, tired enough to go, gratefully, will shake hands with everyone, bye, bye, and then pack a bag, some snacks, and go to the volcano.

A heartbreaking work of staggering genius by Dave Eggers is certainly more staggering than heartbreaking but the genius of the memoir stays put all the same. I’m not a big-fan of memoirs and auto-biographies or anything to do first-hand with an individual’s life but having read this book, I have to keep an eye out for something as remarkable as this to pull me out of my literary shenanigans.

The premise of the book has a lot to do with Eggers and his siblings becoming orphans, successively, over the short period of a month as they surrender their father and then their mother to cancer. What follows this tragedy is an unflinching account of a Generation X Oliver Twist trying to find the ground not just under his own feet but his younger brother Toph’s as well. There are also Beth and Bill who are older and do not require Dave’s assistance in the near or distant future; all of them having been allotted finances by the trust of their parents’ wills. So, Dave and Toph move down to San Francisco to start a new life.

Now, what I found heartbreaking about the work was the extreme care that Dave describes for Toph and the way the duo manage to find the own corners in time and space to communicate with each other. There is blatant brotherhood running through the whole thing and yet the two want to turn down the volume of their unspoken understandings by pretending to not care of each other’s presence. This is what makes it so heartbreaking, the sheer helplessness and union of the duo to play the hand dealt to them. There are also a lot of pages dedicated to the years Eggers spent in running a magazine called Might!.

My favourite part of the book is where Dave auditions for a chance to get on the MTV’s Real World show. It is here that he sees a ready medium, one more tempting and popular than the written word, to share his story of defeat and reprise, confidence and insecurities. The way in which he unveils his whole life and beyond in the interview in a carefully planned digressions is something I found quite striking. He sits down to accurately narrate the ideals, preoccupations and possibilities of his generation to a complete stranger which is something I fancy doing one of these days.

Any criticisms of the book are one-way because Eggers already lists down all the possible criticisms himself in the preface and acknowledgements. Perhaps this is where the genius side of the title comes into play.

All in all, A heartbreaking work of staggering genius is a good read for the emotional and stream-of-consciousness styling performed by Eggers but it has to be said that the ending doesn’t really leave a good taste in your head, as it wallows in its own helpless rage and fails to wave goodbye at the right moment. Although, fans of Catcher in the rye will probably like it for the way it digresses and regresses through a variety of coming-of-age situations and behaviours. A beautiful read.

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