6.20.2005

ahwosg bookclub pt. 1

Welcome all to the first installment of the Invented Usage "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" Bookclub! That's right. We didn't read it when it came out like everyone else. We pride ourselves on being way behind the times (from time to time). But you like it and love it. So here it is. As you join us. We've just completed the lengthy introduction and part one of the text.

c: I have to say, from the title, i was expecting something a bit more cosmic... more Umberto Ecco (whom i haven't read... but still). I guess i'm just hoping there's something more heartbreaking and staggering in it than cancer and parent-death.

s: Yeah, agreed. I'm not to sure what to make of all of this yet. It's not a very 'thick' book. Page wise, yes, it's pretty thick, but content wise. I don't know it seems a little thin to me so far.

c: i like how the two deaths are staged chronologically - they're interlaced; but i'm not sure exactly what this method of storytelling conveys. Are we supposed to be viewing the deaths from the main character's perspective? is this how he experienced them?

s: story wise, things are pretty basic. it appears that the narration is shrouded in gimmickry that i'm supposed to find amusing.

c: do you find it amusing?

s: in places, but for the most part, i think it's covering trails of humor already covered, and perhaps, at the time of the book's release, these trails hadn't been used yet. But even so, if it's not funny now, then it was never really that funny in the first place. in a sense, i feel like i'm watching "I love the 90s" as i read the book.

c: i find myself wondering whether a lot of the book's initial impact came from its originality. i think that witty, po-mo, self-referentiality was, at one time, a very new idea. but now we've read david foster wallace and the whole new generation of writers that he and Eggers spawned, so i feel like the style has lost some freshness.

s: there's something cold and calculating about the book that i can't put my finger on. AHWOSG feels to me like the cool kid in english class... the one that breaks the rules because they know what they are and can do it, but once everyone's graduated, they realize what a bunch of subterfuge and fakery it all was. it really just comes across as it dave eggers is posing for us, and i don't really care.

c: he does mention in the introduction the possibility of exploitation that an autobiography poses; but i don't think addressing it in this ironic way necessarily gets him off the hook for it.

s: not at all. if anything, it makes it more irritating. 'look over here at the bearded lady! this is not an autobiography -- oh, wait... it is.'

c: i guess if it gets really really heartbreaking and staggering as it goes on, i could forgive pretty much any amount of posing. but i'm getting more and more concerned that he won't be able to pull it off.

s: what is this? Catcer in the Rye!? woof.

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