A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Mediocrity

30 April 2001

Kris and I spent the weekend at Eagle Crest, a resort near Bend. We rented a house with other members of the MNF Investments group and we ended up with ten adults and one infant together for three days. Fun was had by all.

I’m pushing myself too hard on the exercise front, though. I am fat, old, and out-of-shape. For some reason, though, I am not taking these factors into account. As a result, I am in tremendous pain. Last Saturday I had my bicycle crash at the high school. I still have bruises and swelling from that almost ten days later. During the middle of last week I undertook two rides that would have been moderately difficult even if I were skinny, young, and in-shape. These rides drained my thighs. On Friday, our first full day at Eagle Crest, I rode fifteen hilly miles, played two hours of racquetball, and went on a walk. I played another hour of racquetball and played some baseball on Saturday. Now my entire body aches.

My right shoulder, which had been feeling somewhat better, is once again a source of intense pain. While playing racquetball, I twisted my right knee so that now any non-standard use of it sends bolts of pain up my body. My elbows are sore. My ankles are very sore from so much thudding around during racquetball.

I don’t mean to complain. I had tremendous fun. It’s just that I need to take it easy, to ease into this program of fitness.

On a side note: despite the fact that I did so much exercise and was careful about what I ate this weekend, I’m heavier than when I left. sigh I’m attempting to focus on making a life-style change that will lead to better fitness and lighter weights, so this lack of weight loss ought not matter. But, it’s difficult to do things differently than I always have, and I’ve always focused on weight-loss as an indication that I’m exercising and eating well.

While on vacation, I was able to finish Dave Egger’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. This book is a memoir of sorts, written by a young man about my age, relating the story of his parents’ deaths and his subsequent life, which largely consists of raising his younger brother. It is a very witty book at times (I laughed out loud in several places). It is very self-conscious, though, with copious annotations in an included appendix; with a very large dedication/preface filled with information similar to that found in the appendix; and with self-analysis and soliloquies throughout.

The book is neither heartbreaking nor genius. It is, however, mostly well-written and mostly entertaining. The book’s glaring flaw (to my mind) is the author himself, and the manner in which he imposes himself upon the narrative. The first hundred pages or so are very good: well-written and engrossing. After this point, though, Egger’s voice literally begins to intrude upon the page. The narrative becomes less first-person memoir and more self-conscious journal (oh hey! just like this!). I wouldn’t mind reading this kind of thing on-line, but it doesn’t work well as a book.

Eggers sees his life as tragic, as if it were somehow both more important and more grief-filled than other people’s lives. His parents both died of cancer within five weeks of each other, and this fact makes Eggers feel marked, annointed, set apart.

I think that Eggers is just like everybody else, though. All of our lives are filled with tragedy, touched by bizarre coincidences (right, Jennifer?). Where Eggers differs, though, is in his paranoia, his delusions of grandeur.

Don’t get me wrong — I liked the book. I think that Eggers would likely be a close friend if I knew him. It’s just that his “look how special I am” attitude grew stale after, oh, the preface. I look forward to seeing more mature work from Eggers’ pen.

Comments


On 30 April 2004 (11:43 AM),
mart said:

JD: if you’re ever ready to give eggers a second chance, his second book “you shall know our velocity” is excellent. i never read aHWoSG though.

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