Home | Reviews | Blog | Daily | Glossary | Orrin's Stuff | Email

You've got to give Dave Eggers this, if nothing else, he knows how to market himself.  First he wrote this memoir, loaded with irony to appeal to Gen-Xers, continually self-referential to appeal to postmodernists, and centered around his efforts to raise his little brother after their parents both died of cancer, a sure chick magnet.  Then, having exposed most of his and his family members' lives to public view (at least in theory) he adopted a Pynchonesque/Sallingeresque reclusive pose, and feigned personal agony at having to discuss the book.  All this while cashing in big time on the supposedly "tragic" events of his life.  For these savvy ploys alone he deserves to be called a "staggering genius."

The book itself uses a host of postmodernist, ironical, satirical, self-conscious, etc., etc., etc...techniques, which are rather hackneyed and, given the ostensible topic of the book (his family tragedy), quite off-putting.  A fairly representative passage comes when he's heaving his mother's ashes (or cremains) into Lake Michigan :

    Oh this is so plain, disgraceful, pathetic--

    Or beautiful and loving and glorious!  Yes, beautiful and loving and glorious!

    But even if so, even if this is right and beautiful, and she is tearing up while watching, so
    proud--like what she said to me when I carried her, when she had the nosebleed and I carried her
    and she said that she was proud of me, that she did not think I could do it, that I would be able to
    lift her, carry her to the car, and from the car into the hospital, those words run through my head
    every day, have run through every day since, she did not think I could do it but of course I did it.  I
    knew I would do it, and I know this, I know what I am doing now, that I am doing something both
    beautiful but gruesome because I am destroying its beauty by knowing that it might be beautiful,
    know that if I know I am doing something beautiful, that it's no longer beautiful.   I fear that even
    if it is beautiful in the abstract, that my doing it knowing that it's beautiful and worse, knowing that
    I will very soon be documenting it, that in my pocket is a tape recorder brought for just that
    purpose--that all this makes this act of potential beauty somehow gruesome.  I am a monster.  My
    poor mother.  She would do this without the thinking, without the thinking about thinking--

Yeah sure, I get it, the way he's having this discussion shows that he understands what's going on, yadda, yadda, yadda...  But unfortunately, the point he's making is more accurate than his style is clever.  There simply is something gruesome about this kind of mannered irony and the way, throughout his life, that he seems to interpret his experiences through the filter of the book he plans to write.

At the point where every thought, emotion, and action in your life must be considered for how it will appear in print, you've become a fictional character rather than a real human being.  And by creating so much distance between the character of Dave Eggers and the supposedly tragic events of his life, Eggers (the author) makes it really hard for the reader to care much.  I finished the book unstaggered and heart unbroken, but grudgingly forced to admit that the literary world has a potential new genius, a writer with a genius for self promotion the likes of which we've not seen since Norman Mailer; and we all know how the Norman Mailer story has gone : badly.


Grade: (C-)


See also:

Dave Eggers (2 books reviewed)
Dave Eggers Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Dave Eggers
    -MAGAZINE: McSweeneys
    -WIKIPEDIA: The Circle
    -BOOK SITE: The Circle (Penguin Random House)
    -EXCERPT: from The Circle: We Like You So Much and Want to Know You Better
    -EXCERPT: from The Circle
    -EXCERPT : First Chapter of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
    -REVIEW : of The! Greatest! of! Marlys! By Lynda Barry (Dave Eggers, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Adopting Alyosha A Single Man Finds a Son in Russia. By Robert Klose (Dave Eggers, NY Times Book Review)
    -EXCERPT: The True Story of American Soccer (Dave Eggers, From The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the World Cup)
    -ESSAY: Why Donald Trump could win again (Dave Eggers, 2 Mar 2019, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY: Dave Eggers: why we should listen to teenagers speak about climate crisis (Dave Eggers, 11 Aug 2019, The Guardian)
    -INTERVIEW: If You’re Reading About “The Circle” on Facebook, It’s Already Too Late: Novelist Dave Eggers and director James Ponsoldt tackle technology’s dark side. (Clive Thompson, MAY/JUNE 2017, Mother Jones)
    -INTERVIEW: Q&A with Dave Eggers: The author of “The Circle” discusses groupthink, healthy skepticism and the value of weirdness in education (Tom Gresham, Aug. 11, 2014, VCU News)
    -INTERVIEW: ‘The Circle’ author Dave Eggers thinks the internet is getting creepier (Kai Ryssdal and Robert Garrova, Apr 25, 2017, Marketplace)
    -INTERVIEW: Dave Eggers: ‘Being around young people is the balm to all psychic wounds’ (Lisa O'Kelly, 3/16/19, The Observer)
    -INTERVIEW: ‘I always picture Trump hiding under a table’ Paul Lait, 6/22/18, The Guardian)
-INTERVIEW: An American Nightmare: The Millions Interviews Dave Eggers (Zoë Ruiz September 16, 2020, The Millions)
    -INTERVIEW: Four Questions for Dave Eggers (Sally Lodge, Sep 13, 2018, Publishers Weekly)
    -PROFILE: On Dave Eggers, Author of 'The Circle,' and His Second Career as a Visual Artist (Will Fenstermaker, APRIL 20, 2017, ArtSpace)
    -REVIEW : of Trail Fever by Michael Lewis (David Eggers, Salon)
    -INTERVIEW :   Dave Eggers on creativity in the wake of tragedy.  (KAREN E. STEEN | December 2001, Metropolis)
    -Dialog : Of Editors and Adding Machines André Schiffrin's new book argues that an  army of statisticians and business men is killing publishing. We've invited him, John Donatich and Dave Eggers to conduct an autopsy (FEED)
    -INTERVIEW : Brother Knows Best : Dave Eggers talks, with some reluctance, about the staggering work of being a genius parent. (Amy Benfer , Salon)
    -PROFILE : Cracking Eggers (Douglas Wolk, Village Voice)
    -PROFILE : A Wry Survivor of a World That Fell Apart Finds a Quick Celebrity (SARAH LYALL, 2/10/2000, NY Times)
    -PROFILE : Dave Eggers Turns His Memoir Upside Down (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, February 14, 2001, NY Times)
    -ARTICLE : Bestselling Author Dave Eggers Assails New York Times Writer Over Profile : The writer of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius airs his complaints by publishing his entire e-mail correspondence with a reporter. He also says that off-the-record comments were used without his permission. (PJ Mark,
    -ESSAY : Culturebox Rules: Dave Eggers vs. David Kirkpatrick Who's right, the wounded memoirist or the exposed journalist?  (Eliza Truitt, Slate)
    -ESSAY : When the tiff gets going...  A hissy feud between novelist Dave Eggers and a New York journalist highlights the love-hate relationship of celebrity and press (Peter Conrad, March 11, 2001,  The Observer uk)
    -PROFILE : Eggers Surprised By Success  (James Sullivan, SF Chronicle)
    -PROFILE : A man of the people :  He refuses to meet with the media, but Dave Eggers invites fans to write poetry at his readings and buys them all drinks afterward (KIM CURTIS, April 25, 2001, Globe & Mail)
    -PROFILE : The agony and the irony :  He's the hottest literary star in America and he's  written a best-selling memoir about raising his kid brother after his parents' death. Is Dave Eggers for real?   (Stephanie Merritt, The Observer)
    -PROFILE : Bedsit genius charms US : A reclusive publishing sensation is being hailed as the new William Burroughs (Ed Vulliamy, The Observer)
    -PROFILE : Searching for the real Dave Eggers : Author of bestseller A heartbreaking work of staggering genius, Dave Eggers is notoriously distrustful of the media, refusing all telephone and in-person interview requests, It is a policy that gives rise to some unusual rumours. Who is the real Dave Eggers? (Kim Curtis, The Age)
    -ESSAY : The Null Set : Is the postmodern fiction of Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace a literary dead end? Or  is there a way out of the funhouse? Keith Gessen looks for clues. (FEED)
    -ESSAY : A staggeringly post-modern work  of literary trickery  : Stephen Moss assesses the critical reaction to Dave Eggers's A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (The Guardian)
    -ESSAY: How Dave Eggers gets Silicon Valley wrong (Felix Salmon September 30, 2013, Reuters)
    -ESSAY: What Dave Eggers' 'The Circle' gets wrong about millennial culture (MARGARET EBY, OCT 14, 2013, NY Daily News)
    -ESSAY: Demoxie: Reflections on digital democracy in Dave Eggers’ novel The Circle (Kathrin Maurer and Christian F. Rostbøll, 4 May 2020, First Monday)
    -ESSAY: Circle Jerks: Why Do Editors Love Dave Eggers? (Nitasha Tiku, 10/02/13, Gawker)
    -ESSAY: 'The Circle' Movie Vs. Book Shows How Big Versions Delve Deep Into Tech & Surveillance (OLIVIA TRUFFAUT-WONG, April 27, 2017, Bustle)
    -ESSAY: The Posthuman Turn in Dave Eggers’ The Circle (Marina Ludwigs, Fall 2015, Anthropoetics)
    -ESSAY: Social Media Marketing in a Dystopian Novel: Dave Eggers' "The Circle" (Sarah Snow, June 8, 2015, Social Media Today)
    -ESSAY: Big Other: Surveillance Capitalism and the Prospects of an Information Civilization (Shoshana Zuboff, 17 Apr 2015, Journal of Information Technology)
    -ESSAY: The Despotic Imperative: From Hiero to The Circle (Bülent Diken, 2019, Cultural Politics)
    -ESSAY: Seven technologies predicted in Dave Eggers’ dystopian new novel that already exist (Leo Mirani, October 18, 2013, Quartz)
    -ESSAY: Facebook Is Watching You: And they want to watch you more closely than you could have imagined. Will people be comfortable with it? (PAUL WALDMAN, OCTOBER 31, 2013, American Prospect)
    -ESSAY: 6 ways that 'Big Brother' technology in 'The Circle' is already happening (Andrea Mandell, 4/24/17, USA TODAY)
    -ESSAY: A Brutal Murder, a Wearable Witness, and an Unlikely Suspect: Karen Navarra was a quiet woman in her sixties who lived alone. She was found beaten to death. The neighbors didn't see anything. But her Fitbit did. (LAUREN SMILEY, 09.17.2019, Wired)
    -ESSAY: Algorithm calls Dave Eggers’s The Circle the ultimate bestseller, despite its not being a bestseller (Chad Felix, June 28, 2016, Melville House)
    -ESSAY: The bestselling book of fiction all big data analysts & digital health gurus should read: If you dug George Orwell’s 1984 or Animal Farm (or the Where the Wild Things Are […] (LINDSEY ALEXANDER, Nov 12, 2013, Med City News)
    -ESSAY: Dave Eggers, The Circle and Why I’m Leaving the Bay Area (Lizzy Acker, Oct 25, 2013, KQED)
    -ESSAY: A Reasonable Expectation of Transparency: Dave Eggers’s The Circle (TAMARA TABO, Dec 5, 2013 , Above the Law)
    -ESSAY: Privacy or security? - How we are ending up, step-by-step, in The Circle (Dick Dekkers, 5/15/16, Digidentity)
    -PODCAST: 01: The Box That A.I. Lives In (The Secret History of the Future, Slate)
    -ESSAY: Against Transparency (Lawrence Lessig, October 9, 2009, New Republic))
    -ESSAY: Deliberative Democratic Theory (Simone Chambers, June 2003, Annual Review of Political Science)
    -ARCHIVES: "dave eggers" (Melville House)
    -ARCHIVES: "dave eggers" (American Prospect)
    -ARCHIVES: "eggers" (Slate)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: Dave Egger (Kirkus)
    -ARCHIVES: Dave Egger (The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle by Dave Eggers (David Moran, Tor)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Lionel Shriver, Financial Times)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Edward Docx, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Graeme MCMILLAN, Wired)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Ellen Ullman, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Dennis K. Berman, WSJ)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Kate Knibbs, The Ringer)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Deutsche-Welle)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Susannah Luthi, LA Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Claire Fitzgerald, Center for Digital Ethics & Policy)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Fiona Maazel, Book Forum)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Margaret Atwood, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Betsy Morais, The New Yorker)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Sam Sacks, WSJ)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Jon Baskin, The Point)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (G. Willow Wilson, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (LA Times)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Bob Minzesheimer, USA TODAY)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Lauren Christensen, Vanity Fair)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Timothy Harfield)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Jane Ciabbatari, Boston Globe)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Wendy M Grossman, ZDNet)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Wade Roush, Xconomy)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Jimmy Liu, Medium)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Scott Timberg, Salon)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Mashable)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Gus Lubin, Business Insider)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Luke Fretwell, GovFresh)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Scott D. Eldridge, IEE Explore)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Jen Doll, Vulture)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Richard Galant, CNN)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Jessica Winter, Slate)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (LEE KONSTANTINOU, American Prospect)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Jason Diamond, Flavor Wire)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Andrew Courts, Digital Trands)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Josh Davis, Time Out)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Kate Webb, Times Literary Supplement)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Mark Guarino, Chicago Tribune)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Rick Searle, Utopia or Dystopia)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Chad Ashby, Christ and Pop Culture)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Matthew Braga, National Post)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Calvin Terbeek, Houston Press)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Dimitri Nasrallah, Toronto Star)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (ALEXANDER NAZARYAN, Newsweek)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Stuart Kelly, The Scotsman)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (ILAN MOCHARI, INC
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (seth Stevenson, Bloomberg)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Sorcha Hamilton, Irish Times)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Rob Williams, Mic)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (CLAIRE LUCHETTE, Bustle)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Mo Lotman, The Technoskeptic)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Hillary Kelly, The New Republic)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Graeme McMillan, TIME)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (NANCY ROMMELMANN, The Oregonian)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Nick Kolakowski, Dice)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Kashmir Hill, Forbes)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Stefan Beck, Daily Beast)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (a Human Capitalist)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Anita Felicelli, Palo Alto Online)
    -REVIEW: of The Circle (Laser Fiche)
    -REVIEW : of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius By Dave Eggers (2000) (Sara Mosle, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius By Dave Eggers (William Corbett, Boston Phoenix)
    -REVIEW : of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (Brian Dillon, Richmond Review)
    -REVIEW : of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (Robert Hanks, booksonline uk)
    -REVIEW : of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (Raymond Seitz, booksonline uk)
    -REVEW : of A Heartbreaking Work (New Statesman, William Georgiades)
    -REVIEW : of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (Alexander Star, New Republic)
    -REVIEW : of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (Dan Savage, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers : Come to the cabaret : Failed at TV? Try writing. Adam Begley on Dave Eggers' disarming talent for self-publicity .  (July 15, 2000, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (KEN WINLAW -- Toronto Sun)
    -REVIEW : of "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" by Dave Eggers (Mark Lindquist, Seattle Times)
    -REVIEW : of A Heartbreaking Work (Brian Dillon, Richmond Review)
    -REVIEW : of Heartbreaking Work (Ashley Fantz, MEMPHIS FLYER)
    -REVIEW: of The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers (Tim Adams, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of
-REVIEW: of The Lifters by Dave Eggers (Tony Bradman, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of
-REVIEW: of The Parade by Dave Eggers (Benjamin Evans, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of The Parade (Andrew Motion, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of
-REVIEW: of The Captain and the Glory by Dave Eggers (Sandra Newman, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of The Every by Dave Eggers (lisa Borst, N+1)
    -REVIEW: of

Book-related and General Links: