Cannonball 3: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

hipster kitty

They're not LOLcats, they're Hipster Kitties. Deal with it, Rowles.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Confession #1: I hate hipsters. I hate their skinny jeans and little, curly mustaches and pretentious music and smug sanctimony. I hate how they’ll ask you if you’ve heard of some band and, after you say you haven’t, their jaws will drop and they’ll gibber at you for thirty minutes about how awesome the band is and end with: “Seriously? You’ve never heard of them?” Well, I have now. For thirty minutes.

And the following week, after the band starts getting played on the radio, they’re suddenly lame because they’ve “sold out.”

I hate how they jump on you for eating at McDonald’s and shopping at Walmart. Pick something real to criticize me for.

I hate how they spend all their money on staying on the cutting edge of music and entertainment, act like martyrs when they can’t afford a nicer place because they’ve blown all their money on fair-trade coffee, and then look down on actually poor people for having bad taste.

Confession #2: I am a closet hipster. You almost have to be one to be a Pajiba regular and debate the merits of films with a healthy dose of snarky comments.

hipster kitty

I may not wear scarves in 87° weather, but I do wear my glasses every day and claim that it’s because I don’t want to waste money on contacts. I may not drone on and on about some indie film that none of my friends have seen, but I have seen it, and am secretly proud of myself for knowing about it (thanks to Pajiba). I may watch “America’s Next Top Model” religiously, but I also fill my Goodreads “To-Read” shelf with selections from The New York Times’ “Ten Best Books of 2010” and other book lists from sites that I respect.

… which is how A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius made it onto my reading list in the first place.

Dave Eggers’ parents both died of cancer within five weeks of each other. His mother’s death was lingering and drawn-out. His father’s was sudden and unexpected. Their deaths left him, at the age of twenty-one, to fend for himself and to raise his seven-year-old brother, Toph.

He has an older brother and sister, but their responsibilities at work and law school are a priority, and so it falls to Dave to take care of Toph. He wants to do right by his brother, but has no idea how to raise a kid while he’s still trying to become a man himself.

Eggers had an extraordinary burden to bear, and extraordinary circumstances often create extraordinary people, and I can’t deny that Eggers has talent. But the type of person that the young Eggers became was exactly the type of hipster that I hate. It made it difficult for me to like him. I know, he purposely made himself an unlikeable character. But that’s such a pretentious and hipster-cool thing to do that I just couldn’t appreciate it.

hipster kitty

Eggers’ writing is great; don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy reading McSweeney’s Internet Tendency (a daily humor site hosted by Eggers’ publishing house) every once in a while. His account of his parents’ last days was heartbreaking, and it made me dread the day when I will have to suffer the loss of my own parents — I already have twelve years on Eggers when he lost his parents, and I hope to gain many more before I lose mine.

But a lot of the novel struck me as self-important and indulgent; there were all these random flights of fancy that struck me as showing off: “Look at me! I can be deep!”

Once again, I understand that this was intentional, but I don’t think arrogance should be applauded just because it’s self-aware arrogance. It’s still arrogance, a trait that most people would admit that they dislike.

So if it makes me uncool for “missing the point” of this book, then so be it. You wrote a tongue-in-cheek memoir of the arrogant hipster that you were when you were twenty-one. Congratulations, you achieved your goal: you got me to despise you. But take comfort in the fact that I also sympathize with the young fool you were, having once been twenty-one myself, and desperate to be cool and relevant. Take comfort in the fact that, as I despise you, I must also despise that part of myself that made me want to read this book in the first place, and now finds a self-loathing satisfaction in being anti-hipster enough to give it a mediocre review.

View all my reviews


  1. […] my review of Groundswell was my love letter to Pajiba, then my review of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is my hate mail to hipsters. Hey, everyone! It's Hipster […]

  2. […] reminded me a little of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, a book that takes an unflinching look at the folly and pretention of youth. But, for me, the […]

{ RSS feed for comments on this post} · { TrackBack URI }

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: