Literary Birthday: Dave Eggers

Raised in suburban Chicago, Dave Eggers (born today in 1970) was only 21 years old when his parents died in rapid succession, leaving him to raise his eight-year-old brother, Toph. Eggers moved them to the Bay Area, where he helped found the short-lived Gen-X humor magazine Might and started the longer-lived website Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern and related McSweeney’s independent publishing imprint.

His part-snarky and part-grief-stricken memoir of that time, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000), was a Pulitzer Prize-winning critical and audience hit that placed Eggers in the pantheon of other boundary-pushing contemporaries like David Foster Wallace. True to his keenly ironic style, Eggers prefaced his memoir with “Rules and Suggestions for Enjoyment of This Book” (“you might want to skip much of the middle, namely pages 209–301”) and even lays out his major themes (e.g., “The Unspoken Magic of Parental Disappearance,” “The Knowingness About the Book’s Self-consciousness Aspect”), no doubt to the great relief of students assigned the book in a seminar on Postmodern Self-Referentiality in Modern American Biography.

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