Dave Eggers is an author everyone should try. Some people can’t stand anything he does, but I am not one of them. Anyone that can’t see beauty in at least parts of Eggers’s work ain’t breathing. I’ve been a fan from the first page of A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius.
A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius
A lot of people I know would agree that there’s only one word to describe this book. But I don’t think any of them would choose the same word. For myself, I pick “moving.” It moved me as a writer because I know how difficult writing can be. And Eggers is a writer’s writer. But that’s doesn’t mean it isn’t accessible. I know more writing snobs who hate this book than “normal” people who read for fun.
It moved me as a brother because I have a little brother. And it moved me as a person because that’s what happens when you read a book about a twenty-two year old who loses his parents to cancer and becomes the guardian of an eight year old.
Basically, AHWOSG is a big raggedy monster of an autobiography that has moments so good that the pages that aren’t as great don’t even seem to matter. And it’s funny! Oh man, it is funny.
What Is The What? The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng
What Is The What? is not about Dave Eggers, but is a novelized autobiography that he wrote. Eggers collaborated with Achak Deng, a survivor of the Darfur genocide, to write this gigantic story about Deng’s flight from the Sudan to America. Once in the United States, Deng becomes disillusioned with his new life.
The story begins with a robbery. It continues in present-day American with flashbacks to the wars in Africa. If you are not moved by the stories about the Lost Boys of the Sudan walking across the deserts in groups as lions pick them off and starvation and thirst drive them crazy, you’re not alive.
As hard to comprehend is some of the treatment Deng receives in America. It is a sickening experience to see the man who has escaped the horrors of the genocide becoming nostalgic for the country he fled.
I’m a naive little man in Utah who has no idea what so many like Achak Deng have experienced. What Is The What? may very well be as close to a genocide as I’ll ever get. And it was enough.
The answer to the question, “What is the what?” is one of the most brilliant, powerful things that’s out there in literature. This book changed me as much as a book can change anyone.
PS: If anyone else is interested, Dave Eggers has a new book out. I’m about halfway through Zeitoun and think it’s his best yet.
Who’s read Eggers and who’s going to? Let’s talk in the comments.
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