This is a memoir. Eggers explains that he wouldn’t really call A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS a true story because he made up the dialog. And sometimes that dialog is obviously his invention, such as when a 9-year-old boy talks with the maturity of a 30-year-old man or when he begins with his MTV interview that turns into something else. I sometimes had to re-read to understand what he was doing.
Before the beginning of A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS Eggers notes all the parts you can safely skip. But that made me want to read them all the more, and I didn’t skip anything. I admit, though, after 100 or so pages his style sometimes aggravated me, his constant repetition, so I did skim some paragraphs. Even though I could tell that those paragraphs represented his private thought processes, I sometimes found them disjointed and monotonous.
Most reviews of this book concentrate on only part of the story, he and his little brother. Yes, Eggers raises his much younger brother, Toph, after their parents died. And, of course, Toph is a big part of the story, occupying Eggers’ thoughts most of the time.
But he also emphasizes all the energy he simultaneously expends on a startup magazine. Poor Eggers is always exhausted.
Also running throughout his story are his remembrances of his mother, beginning near her end. Yet he doesn’t have much to say about his father, apparently an alcoholic.
Eggers’ memoir has three main subjects, not just one. Probably most readers find his relationship with Toph to be the most touching.