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Christian

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

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So, the final chapter. Whew! Yeah, 'exhausting' still fits. But I feel a little more enthusiastic about the book than some of you guys might feel. Christian, you especially seemed underwhelmed by it, and I agree with a lot of your criticism. By the end, I'm not sure what Eggers is trying to achieve other than indulge in some massive self-analysis session, peppered with huge doses of self-loathing.

Big asset: Eggers' writing, which is phenomenally good. Downside: No ability or desire to self-edit.

Big asset: The book's structure, which I compared before to Pulp Fiction in the way it takes what could be a standard, tear-jerking memoir and cuts up the narrative so we don't get a full picture of Dave's dysfunctional home life and possibly abusive father except in pieces much later in the narrative. Downside: Too much junk in between about Dave's friends and Might venture, although I can see how some of it is necessary to paint a picture of this strange nihilistic generation that's so bent on fame of any kind.

Still very disappointed that there's not some significant exploration of spiritual issues. I guess Eggers' indicates he's an agnostic, but still clings to some part of his mother's devout Catholicism? The complete lack of spiritual exploration irks me - especially when Eggers writes about every other aspect of his life, from his kidney stone to his efforts to get Toph into private school, which serve very little narrative purpose. Maybe I'm overly cynical, but the lack of deeper spiritual exploration makes me think that stuff just wouldn't appeal to the book's intended audience, so it was axed.

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I couldn't have summed up the book any better, Mark.

A big THANK YOU to you for organizing this discussion, especially in the midst of your recent family situation. I'm looking forward to further book discussions here, even if I haven't read the book. blushing.gif

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A 'thank you' right back at ya, for getting things rolling with this suggestion. Now I'm off to the book club topic to post some new candidates ....

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Nothing really struck me about this chapter, either. There was a nice bit of irony about how Might magazine was mocking young entrepenuers when it was people like themselves that they were mocking.

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I think the near-death of Shalini provides a sobering counterpoint to the Adam Rich fake-celebrity-death piece. Dave seems to be admitting how shallow the whole Adam Rich thing was by comparing it to what happens when someone he knows almost dies for real. In fact, Dave seems to be honest about admitting the shallowness of the entire Might Magazine enterprise in writing about it in such an irreverent manner. It's the human relationships that really matter, and the whole book is centered on Dave's relationship with Toph. At the same time, Dave has been honest about his own shortcomings in his relationship with Toph. This has been done in describing scenes like when he neglected Toph so he could have a one-night stand with the so-called "sexologist", or through Dave's fake interview segments with Toph throughout the book.

Going back to the Adam Rich incident, I did enjoy the bit of irony that even Hard Copy, the bottom-of-the-barrel when it comes to tabloid television, did fact checking, and Dave and his cohorts couldn't fool them.

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I agree that this is the key chapter in the book, and it was quite moving.

There is a striking difference between the paths Dave and her sister Beth have taken in moving on. At her wedding Beth seems to have totally embraced California culture, rejecting her more staid Midwestern upbringing. Dave on the other hand feels a strong need to reconnect with his roots, so he goes back home to Lake Forest. Beth seems to want to put her parents' deaths totally behind her, and doesn't want to deal with their ashes. Dave on the other hand tries to find closure in giving her mother her final wish in how she wanted her ashes disposed of. The funeral scene was quite sad, as few of the people whom Dave's mother had known throughout her life cared enough to come back to the funeral.

It's poignant that during Dave's date with his old flame Sarah, that he can only think about finding the truth about his father. I think this illustrates how Dave has grown as a person through his personal reckoning and in learning to embrace what's truly important: family and true relationships, instead of frivolity like magazines and one-night stands.

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The final chapter wraps things up nicely. There was an interesting parallel between Shaniti coming out of the coma and remembering nothing about her former life, and Dave and Toph leaving California behind, with friends scattering, the end of Might Magazine, and looking forward to the future.

The final scene with Dave and Toph playing frisbee recalls the scene on the beach earlier in the book, and things have come full circle. This is the relationship that endures.

I found that as frustrating as this book could be sometimes, I was glad to have read it. Dave is a good writer, and hopefully with more experience and a good editor, he can learn to downplay the meanderings that make him difficult to read. However, I will think twice before I decide to read anyone else's 300-plus-page thearpy excercise. smile.gif

Thank you Mark for organizing this discussion, and for your perceptive summary. I'm looking forward to more book discussions in the future.

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