A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Dave Eggers Character Analysis

The narrator and protagonist of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Eggers is twenty-one when both his parents die, leaving him and his sister, Beth, to take care of their seven-year-old brother, Toph. Although they both help one another with this duty, the primary caretaking responsibilities fall to Eggers because he is closest to Toph. When the family—except for their older brother Bill—moves to Berkeley, California and sublets a house together, Eggers makes an effort to create a fun and optimistic life for Toph, treating him like more of a roommate than a child. Before long, though, Toph starts attending school again, and he and Eggers find their own place to live, since their sublet has ended and Beth is starting law school. Thus begins a period in which Eggers tries to balance his life as a guardian and a young bachelor, all while attempting to establish a career as an underground, anti-establishment magazine editor. As he does this, he finds it difficult to navigate the various roles he’s expected to play. When, for example, he looks at a group of middle-aged mothers at one of Toph’s baseball games, he wonders how he’s supposed to fit in, thinking, “Am I them?” Other than this tinge of insecurity, though, Eggers is sarcastic and hyperbolic throughout the text. His scathing humor rarely spares anyone or anything, including himself, as he criticizes even his own authorial decisions in a tongue-in-cheek, self-aware manner.

Dave Eggers Quotes in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

The A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius quotes below are all either spoken by Dave Eggers or refer to Dave Eggers. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Self-Consciousness and Meta-Narration Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius published in 2001.
Acknowledgements Quotes

Further, the author, and those behind the making of this book, wish to acknowledge that yes, there are perhaps too many memoir-sorts of books being written at this juncture, and that such books, about real things and real people, as opposed to kind-of made up things and people, are inherently vile and corrupt and wrong and evil and bad, but would like to remind everyone that we could all do worse, as readers and writers.

Related Characters: Dave Eggers (speaker)
Page Number: xxi
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[…] an incomparable loss begets both constant struggle and heart-hardening, but also some unimpeachable rewards, starting with absolute freedom, interpretable and of use in a number of ways. And though it seems inconceivable to lose both parents in the space of 32 days […] and to lose them to completely different diseases (cancer, sure, but different enough, in terms of location, duration, and provenance), that loss is accompanied by an undeniable but then of course guilt-inducing sense of mobility, of infinite possibility, having suddenly found oneself in a world with neither floor nor ceiling.

Page Number: xviii
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[The author] is fully cognizant, way ahead of you, in terms of knowing about and fully admitting the gimmickry inherent in all this, and will preempt your claim of the book’s irrelevance due to said gimmickry by saying that the gimmickry is simply a device, a defense, to obscure the black, blinding, murderous rage and sorrow at the core of this whole story, which is both too black and blinding to look at—avert…your…eyes!—but nevertheless useful, at least to the author, even in caricatured or condensed form, because telling as many people as possible about it helps, he thinks, to dilute the pain and bitterness and thus facilitate its flushing from his soul […].

Related Characters: Dave Eggers (speaker)
Page Number: xx
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This part concerns the unshakable feeling one gets, one thinks, after the unthinkable and unexplainable happens—the feeling that, if this person can die, and that person can die, and this can happen and that can happen…well, then, what exactly is preventing everything from happening to this person, he around whom everything else happened? If people are dying, why won’t he? If people are shooting people from cars, if people are tossing rocks down from overpasses, surely he will be the next victim. If people are contracting AIDS, odds are he will, too.

Page Number: xxiii
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Chapter 1 Quotes

I’ll keep sharp objects out of proximity, I had joked to the doctor. The doctor did not chuckle. I wondered if he had heard me. I considered repeating it, but then figured that he had probably heard me but had not found it funny. But maybe he didn’t hear me. I thought briefly, then, about supplementing the joke somehow, pushing it over the top, so to speak, with the second joke bringing the first one up and creating a sort of one-two punch. No more knife fights, I might say. No more knife throwing, I might offer, heh heh. But this doctor does not joke much. Some of the nurses do. It is our job to joke with the doctors and nurses. It is our job to listen to the doctors, and after listening to the doctors, Beth usually asks the doctors specific questions […] and sometimes I ask a question, and then we might add some levity and a witty aside. I know that I should joke in the face of adversity; there is always humor, we are told. But in the last few weeks, we haven’t found much. We have been looking for funny things, but have found very little.

Related Characters: Dave Eggers (speaker), Eggers’s Mother (Heidi Eggers), Beth Eggers
Page Number: 11
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Would we have enough towels? God no. We could use sheets, we have plenty of sheets— It might be only a few hours. Would that be enough time? What’s enough time? We would talk a lot. Yes. We would sum up. Would we be serious, sober, or funny? We would be serious for a few minutes— Okay okay okay okay. Fuck, what if we ran out of things to say and— We’ve already made the necessary arrangements. Yes, yes, we wouldn’t need to talk details. We’d have Toph come up. Would we have Toph come up? Of course, but… oh he shouldn’t be there, should he? Who wants to be there at the very end? No one, no one. But for her to be alone…of course she won’t be alone, you’ll be there, Beth’ll be there, dumb-ass. Fuck.

Page Number: 24
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Chapter 2 Quotes

Only here are you almost sure that you are careening on top of a big shiny globe, blurrily spinning—you are never aware of these things in Chicago, it being so flat, so straight—and and and we have been chosen, you see, chosen, and have been given this, it being owed to us, earned by us, all of this—the sky is blue for us, the sun makes passing cars twinkle like toys for us, the ocean undulates and churns for us, murmurs and coos to us. We are owed, see this is ours, see.

Related Characters: Dave Eggers (speaker), Toph Eggers
Page Number: 50
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They laugh, I chuckle—not too much, I don’t want to seem overeager, but enough to say “I hear you. I laugh with you. I share in the moment.” But when the chuckling is over I am still apart, something else, and no one is sure what I am. They don’t want to invest their time in the brother sent to pick up Toph while his mother cooks dinner or is stuck at work or in traffic. To them I’m a temp. A cousin maybe. The young boyfriend of a divorcee? They don’t care.

Fuck it. I don’t want to be friends with these women, anyway. Why would I care? I am not them. They are the old model and we are the new.

Related Characters: Dave Eggers (speaker), Toph Eggers
Page Number: 57
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Chapter 3 Quotes

It’s an effort […] to let him know, if it weren’t already obvious, that as much as I want to carry on our parents’ legacy, he and I will also be doing some experimenting. And constantly entertaining, like some amazing, endless telethon. There is a voice inside me, a very excited, chirpy voice, that urges me to keep things merry, madcap even, the mood buoyant. Because Beth is always pulling out old photo albums, crying, asking Toph how he feels, I feel I have to overcompensate by keeping us occupied. I am making our lives a music video, a game show on Nickelodeon—lots of quick cuts, crazy camera angles, fun, fun, fun! It’s a campaign of distraction and revisionist history—leaflets dropped behind enemy lines, fireworks, funny dances, magic tricks.

Related Characters: Dave Eggers (speaker), Toph Eggers, Beth Eggers
Page Number: 88
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They are scared. They are jealous.

We are pathetic. We are stars.

We are either sad and sickly or we are glamorous and new. We walk in and the choices race through my head. Sad and sickly? Or glamorous and new? Sad/sickly or glamorous/new? Sad/sickly? Glamorous/new?

We are unusual and tragic and alive.

Related Characters: Dave Eggers (speaker), Toph Eggers
Page Number: 96
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Chapter 4 Quotes

If when she comes over she questions anything about the state of the house—“Oh God, there’s food under the couch!” or even “Holy bachelor pad!”—or worse, any parental decisions made in her company or otherwise, she is first glared at in Toph’s presence, later lectured out of his earshot, and then becomes fodder for month-long trashings in conversations with Beth about people who know nothing about anything and how dare they say anything, these people, these lotus-eating simpletons who have never known struggle, who would never question other parents, but feel the right to question me, us, simply because we are new at it, are young, are siblings.

Related Characters: Dave Eggers (speaker), Toph Eggers, Beth Eggers
Page Number: 108
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“[…] I mean, it was almost as if it was too much to happen in one day, as if a number of days had been spliced together to quickly paint a picture of an entire period of time, to create a whole-seeming idea of how we are living, without having to stoop (or rise) to actually pacing the story out.”

“What are you getting at?”

“No, I think it’s good, it’s fine. Not entirely believable, but it works fine, in general. It’s fine.”

Related Characters: Dave Eggers (speaker), Toph Eggers (speaker)
Page Number: 114
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You know, to be honest, though, what I see is less a problem with form, all that garbage, and more a problem of conscience. You’re completely paralyzed with guilt about relating all this in the first place, especially the stuff earlier on. You feel somehow obligated to do it, but you also know that Mom and Dad would hate it, would crucify you […]. But then again, I should say, and Bill and Beth would say—well, probably not Bill, but definitely Beth—that your guilt, and their disapproval, is a very middlebrow, middle-class, midwestern sort of disapproval. It’s superstition as much as anything—like the primitives who fear the camera will take their soul. You struggle with a guilt both Catholic and unique to the home in which you were raised. Everything there was a secret—for instance, your father being in AA was not to be spoken of, ever, while he was in and after he stopped attending. You never told even your closest friends about anything that happened inside that house. And now you alternately rebel against and embrace that kind of suppression.

Page Number: 115
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Anyway, with me you have this amazing chance to right the wrongs of your own upbringing, you have an opportunity to do everything better—to carry on those traditions that made sense and to jettison those that didn’t—which is something every parent has the chance to do, of course, to show up one’s own parents, do everything better, to upwardly evolve from them—but in this case, it’s even more heightened, means so much more, because you get to do this with me, their own progeny.

Related Characters: Toph Eggers (speaker), Dave Eggers
Page Number: 119
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Chapter 5 Quotes

Then, at the moment that I am turning the corner, I become convinced, in a flash of pure truth-seeing—it happens every time I leave him anywhere—that Toph will be killed. Of course. The baby-sitter was acting peculiar, was too quiet, too unassuming. His eyes had plans. Of course. So obvious from the beginning. I ignored the signals. Toph had told me Stephen was weird, repeatedly had mentioned his scary laugh, the veggie food he brought and cooked, and I just shrugged it all off. If something happens it’ll be my fault. He will try bad things on Toph. He will try to molest Toph. While Toph is sleeping he will do something with wax and rope. The possibilities snap through my head like pedophilia flashcards—handcuffs, floorboards, clown suits, leather, videotape, duct tape, knives, bathtubs, refrigerators—

Toph will never wake up.

Related Characters: Dave Eggers (speaker), Toph Eggers, Stephen
Page Number: 125
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[…] maybe they’d just be sitting around, at Moodie’s usually, watching cable, getting ready, and I would be there, on the couch, with a beer from the fridge, savoring every minute, not knowing when it would come again, and they would be casual, having no idea what it meant to me, even when I’d be a little manic about it all, a little overeager, laughing too much, drinking too quickly, getting another from the fridge, no problem, okay, hoping for something to happen, hoping we’d go somewhere good, anything to make the night count, make it worth it, justify the constant red/black worry, the visions—I felt so detached sometimes, went for weeks at a time without really being around people my age, like living in a country where no one understands your words[.]

Related Characters: Dave Eggers (speaker), Toph Eggers, Moodie, Stephen
Page Number: 127
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You wouldn’t believe what people will believe once they know our story. They’re ready for anything, basically—will believe anything, because they’ve been thrown off-balance, are still wondering if any of this is true, our story in general, but aren’t sure and are terrified of offending us.

Related Characters: Dave Eggers (speaker), Toph Eggers
Page Number: 139
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I tell her how funny it is we’re talking about all this because as it so happens I’m already working to change all this, am currently in the middle of putting together something that will address all these issues, that will inspire millions to greatness, that with some high school friends […] we’re putting something together that will smash all these misconceptions about us, how it’ll help us all to throw off the shackles of our supposed obligations, our fruitless career tracks, how we will force, at least urge, millions to live more exceptional lives, to {standing up for effect} do extraordinary things, to travel the world, to help people and start things and end things and build things…

“And how will you do this?” she wants to know. “A political party? A march? A revolution? A coup?”

“A magazine.”

Related Characters: Dave Eggers (speaker), Meredith Weiss (speaker)
Page Number: 147
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Chapter 6 Quotes

Everyone’s seen the show. We all despise it, are enthralled by it, morbidly curious. Is it interesting because it’s so bad, because the stars of it are so profoundly uninteresting? Or is it because in it we recognize so much that is maddeningly familiar? Maybe this is indeed us. Watching the show is like listening to one’s voice on tape: it’s real of course, but however mellifluous and articulate you hear your own words, once they’re sent through this machine and are given back to you, they’re high-pitched, nasal, horrifying. Are our lives that? Do we talk like that, look like that? Yes. It could not be. It is. No.

Related Characters: Dave Eggers (speaker)
Page Number: 167
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It was overwhelmingly white, of course, but racism of any kind—at least outwardly expressed—is kind of gauche, so we basically grew up without any sense of prejudice, firsthand or even in the abstract. With the kind of wealth and isolation we had from societal sorts of issues—crime, outside of the vandalism perpetrated by me and my friends, was unheard of—the town was free to see those kinds of things as a kind of entertainment—wrestling matches being contested by other people, in other places.

Related Characters: Dave Eggers (speaker), Laura Folger
Page Number: 187
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Chapter 7 Quotes

We’ve reached the end of pure inspiration, and are now somewhere else, something implying routine, or doing something because people expect us to do it, going somewhere each day because we went there the day before, saying things because we have said them before, and this seems like the work of a different sort of animal, contrary to our plan, and this is very very bad.

Related Characters: Dave Eggers (speaker)
Page Number: 287
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Chapter 9 Quotes

While the ill are ill, if you can be there you should be there. I know these things. Bizarre, self-sacrificing gestures are important. On days that you cannot possibly come visit, you must visit. When you get home one night, and Toph says, “So, are you going to pretend to be a parent tonight, or what?”—which he means as a kind of joke, because you two have been eating fast food for weeks, and you’ve been napping on the couch every night after dinner—you should take a breath and know that this is okay, that this sort of thing, this struggle and sacrifice, is essential, that he does not understand but someday will.

Related Characters: Dave Eggers (speaker), Toph Eggers, Shalini Malhotra
Page Number: 330
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Chapter 10 Quotes

The idea, I suppose, is the emotional equivalent of a drug binge, the tossing together of as much disparate and presumably incompatible stimuli as possible, in a short span, five days, together constituting a sort of socio-familial archaeological bender, to see what comes of it, how much can be dredged up, brought back, remembered, exploited, excused, pitied, made known, made permanent.

Related Characters: Dave Eggers (speaker)
Page Number: 359
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I had loved how vague it was before. Where are they? Well, that’s a good question. Where were they buried? Another interesting question. That was the beauty of my father’s way. We knew that he had been diagnosed, but not how sick he was. We knew that he was in the hospital, but then not how close he was. It had always felt strangely appropriate, and his departure was made complete, as was hers, by the fact that the ashes never found us in California, that we had moved, and moved again, and again, dodging, weaving.

Page Number: 374
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Chapter 11 Quotes

To hear anger from him is a great relief. I had worried about his lack of anger, had worried that he and I had been too harmonious, that I hadn’t given him enough friction. He needed friction, I had begun insisting to myself. After all the years of normalcy and coddling, it was time to give the boy something to be pissed about. How else would he succeed? Where would he find his motivation, if not from the desire to tread over me?

Related Characters: Dave Eggers (speaker), Toph Eggers
Page Number: 413
Explanation and Analysis:
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Dave Eggers Character Timeline in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

The timeline below shows where the character Dave Eggers appears in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Rules and Suggestions for Enjoyment of This Book
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Eggers begins by saying that it isn’t necessary to read the book’s preface, which “exists mostly... (full context)
Preface to This Edition
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Pointing out that A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius isn’t a “work of pure nonfiction,” Eggers reveals that most of the book’s dialogue has been “reconstructed” by memory and reformulated by... (full context)
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Eggers also goes out of his way to state that although the characters in his memoir... (full context)
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Eggers admits he has compressed various timelines in order to better represent his story. He also... (full context)
Acknowledgements
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Eggers thanks the people who have allowed him to write about them, especially Beth and Toph.... (full context)
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Eggers tells a story about running into a writer friend at a bar and telling him... (full context)
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If, Eggers says, readers dislike the idea that this book is a memoir, they should feel free... (full context)
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Eggers establishes that the title of his memoir is intentionally grandiose, but suggests that it was... (full context)
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Addressing the content of the memoir itself, Eggers identifies several themes that are woven throughout the text. The first is “The Unspoken Magic... (full context)
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The third theme that Eggers identifies is “The Painfully, Endlessly Self-Conscious Book Aspect.” This, he posits, is “probably obvious enough... (full context)
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Part of the reason Eggers uses “gimmickry” is because he finds it useful to “caricature” the “rage and sorrow” that... (full context)
Chapter 1
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It is December, and Eggers’s mother is dying on the couch in their home in Lake Forest, Illinois. She has... (full context)
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Eggers describes the progression of his mother’s illness, including the brief period after she did chemotherapy... (full context)
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Eggers takes a moment to describe their house, explaining that his family’s taste is “inconsistent.” In... (full context)
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Eggers is home from college for winter break. His older brother, Bill, has just returned to... (full context)
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When his mother’s oncologist told them that “any bleeding could be the end,” Eggers wasn’t worried. “There seemed to be precious few opportunities to draw blood,” he writes, since... (full context)
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As Eggers holds his mother’s nose again, Toph comes upstairs from the basement, where he has been... (full context)
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...home again, she has determined to never go back, and has even made Beth and Eggers promise they won’t force her to return. (full context)
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...are for the time being working under the assumption that the nose will stop bleeding,” Eggers writes. As he continues to hold her nose while she watches TV and spits green... (full context)
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Half an hour later, Eggers stops holding his mother’s nose, and for a moment it seems the bleeding has stopped,... (full context)
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Eggers asks his mother what she wants to do about her nose, which won’t stop bleeding.... (full context)
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Six months before this episode with the bloody nose, Eggers’s father called him and Beth into the living room. He sat there smoking as they... (full context)
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Beth takes Eggers’s place holding the ice to their mother’s nose, and Eggers goes downstairs to tell Toph... (full context)
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When Beth goes back into the living room, Eggers contemplates how long it would take for his mother to bleed to death. He wonders... (full context)
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Eggers decides against calling multiple people at once. Instead, he and his family can simply spend... (full context)
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Eggers once again describes Beth’s experience of watching their father as he knelt in the driveway.... (full context)
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Back in the family room, Eggers picks up his mother and carries her to the car, promising not to let her... (full context)
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Eggers describes his father’s funeral service, which took place in the third week of November. He... (full context)
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At the house after the funeral, Eggers and Beth talked to their father’s friend, a lawyer who carpooled with him every day.... (full context)
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Eggers’s mother spends the night in the emergency room, followed by a day in intensive care.... (full context)
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After the guests left Eggers’s house in the aftermath of his father’s funeral, he and Kirsten snuck off to his... (full context)
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While sitting with Eggers and Toph in the hospital, Beth remembers with a start that the next day is... (full context)
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Telling the story of his mother’s final days, Eggers switches to the future tense, saying, “We’ll get her out in a few days.” He... (full context)
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“There will be morphine,” Eggers writes. Soon enough, the doses won’t be enough to soothe his mother, so he and... (full context)
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Still using the future tense, Eggers explains that he and Beth will sell the family house a week after their mother... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Eggers and Toph speed along Highway 1 in California, winding along the coast and listening to... (full context)
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Eggers and Toph live with Kirsten, Beth, and Beth’s friend in a sublet overlooking the Bay.... (full context)
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Toph joins a Little League baseball team, so Eggers spends many of his afternoons sitting on the sidelines and watching him play. As he... (full context)
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Eggers explains that he, Beth, and Toph left Chicago quickly, selling almost everything in the house.... (full context)
Chapter 3
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The summer ends and Eggers tries to find a new place to live with Toph. This is harder than he... (full context)
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Finally, in August, Eggers finds a small single-story house in Berkeley. “I’m worried about your lack of a job,”... (full context)
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Toph and Eggers repaint the house, making each room a different color. “The place is ours now,” he... (full context)
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Eggers has been working for a temp agency that sends him to various companies for two-... (full context)
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Toph and Eggers arrive late to the open house at Toph’s school. Eggers curses, blaming Toph for their... (full context)
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Thinking about his own youth, Eggers is appalled to see how old and boring the parents are at the open house.... (full context)
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A woman approaches Eggers at the open house and begins a conversation that he has had so many times... (full context)
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Once this mother has learned the details of Eggers and Toph’s living arrangement, she asks how their parents died. Eggers considers telling her something... (full context)
Chapter 4
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It’s Friday night, and Eggers thinks about how he’d like to go out. Unfortunately, he knows he can’t, since he... (full context)
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Toph gets out of school on Fridays at noon, so Eggers takes work off to spend the afternoon with him. On days like these, they play... (full context)
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Defending himself against Toph’s criticism, Eggers claims that they’ve had “plenty of days like” the one he has just described. He... (full context)
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Continuing his critique of Eggers’s narrative style, Toph suggests that the problem doesn’t have to do with “form,” but rather... (full context)
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Toph suggests that Eggers thinks of himself as quite “open” but that, in reality, this isn’t necessarily the case.... (full context)
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Toph says that Eggers is driven by anger, which is perhaps the result of having grown up in a... (full context)
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Toph says that Eggers likes to pretend they’re “lower class” because they receive “Social Security and live in a... (full context)
Chapter 5
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One night, a man wearing a poncho and sandals rings Eggers’s doorbell, and although Eggers is closer to the door, he makes Toph answer. “I’m not... (full context)
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Just as Eggers is driving around the corner, his excitement about going out turns into terror. “I become... (full context)
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Eggers thinks about being held accountable for leaving Toph with a murder. He imagines the questions... (full context)
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At the bar Eggers sits with his friends, most of whom he’s known since high school. More and more... (full context)
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Eggers’s friend John gets him a beer. “John is broken and I’ve known him forever,” Eggers... (full context)
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Eggers wants something “huge” to happen, thinking, “We should all be armed and taking over small... (full context)
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To escape his friend’s annoying question, Eggers goes to the bathroom, where he shuts himself in a stall to avoid a man... (full context)
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When Eggers returns from the bathroom, another friend approaches him and asks about Toph. This friend doesn’t... (full context)
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“Naturally I took away Toph’s gun privileges,” Eggers continues, “and of course beat him within an inch of his life, so zealously that... (full context)
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Finding the bar boring, Eggers drives to a friend’s house, hoping she’ll invite him in. When he arrives, though, her... (full context)
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Leaving the club, Eggers and Meredith go to the beach, where they sit in the sand and talk about... (full context)
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As Eggers and Meredith start having sex, a group of teenagers approaches them. “Because I’m stupid I... (full context)
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The teenagers walk away, but Eggers can’t find his wallet, so he chases them and accuses them of stealing. They insist... (full context)
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Finally, Eggers decides to “throw out [his] last ace,” saying, “This was my goddamn dad’s wallet you... (full context)
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Eggers and Meredith find a pay phone and call the police, who come and listen to... (full context)
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Meredith and Eggers are relatively silent on the way home. Eggers drops her off and then makes his... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...season will take place in San Francisco, and puts out a call for cast members. Eggers and his friends make fun of the show, though they’re all secretly “morbidly curious” about... (full context)
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The Might team consists of Eggers and Moodie—the founding editors—as well as Marny and a handful of other old friends. Their... (full context)
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...itself as a publication that isn’t part of a particular scene, despite the fact that Eggers and his team are thoroughly entrenched in their generation’s anti-consumerist, contrarian, independent spirit. They put... (full context)
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...the nude, too. When they photograph this, though, only four people agree to pose, including Eggers, Moodie, and Marny. (full context)
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Meanwhile, Eggers and Moodie do freelance design work for the San Francisco Chronicle, and Marny waitresses four... (full context)
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When Eggers arrives at MTV’s San Francisco headquarters, Laura sits him down and asks him questions. Reproducing... (full context)
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Laura asks if Eggers felt like Lake Forest was divided based on wealth, wondering if he felt different from... (full context)
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...asks about whether or not there were many African American people in Lake Forest—or in Eggers’s high school—Eggers says that everyone in his school except four or five kids were white.... (full context)
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Eggers’s interview with Laura begins to spiral out into a vast overview of his entire childhood,... (full context)
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Eggers launches into an “anecdote” about Sarah, a girl two years older than him who was... (full context)
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Laura asks Eggers why he wants to be on The Real World, and he says he wants people... (full context)
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...to a conversation about death, Laura asks about the concept of dying with dignity, and Eggers says, “You will die, and when you die, you will know a profound lack of... (full context)
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Eggers tells Laura that he rarely dreams of his parents. He has, however, dreamt about his... (full context)
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Eggers recalls his father chasing him through the house, drunkenly trying to hit him. Once, when... (full context)
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Wrapping up their conversation, Eggers makes one more attempt to show Laura that he’s a “tragic” person who deserves to... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Eggers isn’t chosen for The Real World. Instead, the show casts a cartoonist named Judd. “Fuck... (full context)
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...advertisers by placing odd fake ads in their pages. When Judd visits with his portfolio, Eggers and Moodie make a point of dressing carelessly. This is a very self-aware attempt to... (full context)
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One of the people who sees Eggers and Moodie on The Real World is Shalini, who loves MTV. They become good friends... (full context)
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Judd, who has agreed to be part of Eggers’s and Moodie’s nude photoshoot, promises to bring a friend from the Real World cast. This... (full context)
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Eggers goes to the park with Toph, who is now eleven. They play Frisbee for a... (full context)
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“Maybe he will do it,” Eggers thinks, considering whether or not John is serious about committing suicide. “Maybe this is it.... (full context)
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Eggers threatens to call the police, but when he picks up the phone, John tells him... (full context)
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Sitting down, Eggers asks why John’s so upset, guessing that it’s because he’s just been dumped by his... (full context)
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Eggers follows John’s ambulance to the hospital, where he sits in the waiting room and watches... (full context)
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Eggers contemplates his desire to write about this odd experience, considering the ways that his self-conscious... (full context)
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Eggers watches John sleep and remembers what he was like as a kid. Then, suddenly, John... (full context)
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Eggers convinces John that he deserves to be able to tell his story. After all, he... (full context)
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John spends three days in a psychiatric ward. When Eggers visits him, he admits he still might kill himself, though he isn’t sure. He then... (full context)
Chapter 8
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The warehouse Eggers works in is condemned, but Might stays in the building because they never receive an... (full context)
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One evening, Eggers and Toph walk by a restaurant where, they discover, Bill Clinton is eating. Excited, they... (full context)
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By this point, Eggers and Kirsten have been in an on-again, off-again relationship for a year and a half,... (full context)
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Toph is getting older. Eggers hates the fact that he is the only person in his new school who lives... (full context)
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One day while working at Might—which has become “depressing” and “routine”—Eggers feels as if he’s been “kicked from inside.” He tries to work through the pain,... (full context)
Chapter 9
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At Might, Eggers and Moodie decide to run a fake celebrity obituary. They want to find someone willing... (full context)
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Toph reminds Eggers of the time he and the other Might editors went to New York to interview... (full context)
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Eggers insists that Sari wasn’t offended by what he wrote, and Toph suggests that she’s probably... (full context)
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Several days later, Toph comes home with school pictures. When he reveals them, Eggers is appalled—Toph is looking at the camera with a helpless, strange expression on his face,... (full context)
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Around the same time that Eggers sees Toph’s school picture, Marny calls and tells him Shalini has been in an accident.... (full context)
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While Shalini is still in her coma, Eggers decides to bring her a teddy bear that he has kept in his car since... (full context)
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On Sari Locker’s last night in town, Eggers drops Toph off at a bar mitzvah, then goes to the office to put the... (full context)
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Sari has to leave soon, but she agrees to meet Eggers in the lobby. As he waits for her, he feels bad about the fact that... (full context)
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Eggers and the other Might editors continue working on the cover story about Adam Rich’s death.... (full context)
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Around this time, Marny and Eggers visit Shalini in the hospital and find her sitting up with her eyes open. The... (full context)
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...of his death story. The story has already attracted quite a lot of attention, since Eggers and Moodie sent a press release to the National Enquirer. Somehow, other publications got ahold... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Eggers revisits Lake Forest for a friend’s wedding. He’s not thrilled about attending a wedding, and... (full context)
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Staying with two high school friends who are now roommates, Eggers sets out on his first day with a list, upon which he has written the... (full context)
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Outside his childhood home, Eggers writes a note and puts it in the mailbox. The note explains that he used... (full context)
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At the wedding—which is, to his great relief, exceedingly normal—people ask Eggers about Toph and about Might, which he says probably won’t be going for much longer.... (full context)
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The next day, Eggers returns to his childhood home, which the current residents have invited him to tour. Inside,... (full context)
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Eggers goes to Lake Michigan despite the cold and uses the payphone to call Beth. “You... (full context)
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Eggers calls his father’s friend and speaks to his wife, who tells him that her husband... (full context)
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This conversation throws Eggers into the memory of his father’s hospitalization. Apparently, it was quite unexpected, since he’d just... (full context)
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The following day, Eggers visits the funeral home and asks the young man working there if he has any... (full context)
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At his friends’ apartment that night, Eggers receives a call from Meredith, who tells him that John is “threatening” suicide again. Distracted... (full context)
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John loves hearing Eggers talk about his morbid fears. Eggers continues, saying, “The thing I was most worried about... (full context)
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Eggers and Sarah enjoy an evening of drinking and talking about what it was like to... (full context)
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Eggers’s thoughts about his mother lead to a whirlwind of worries, including that Sarah can sense... (full context)
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The next day, which is New Year’s Day, Eggers goes to Lake Michigan. He’s returning to California that evening, but before he leaves he... (full context)
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Deciding that spreading his mother’s ashes in Cape Cod is unrealistic, Eggers realizes that today is also his mother’s birthday. This, he thinks, is a sign that... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Back in California, Eggers and Toph drive to Black Sands Beach, which is a secluded spot only ten minutes... (full context)
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Eggers and Toph ease onto a dirt road that winds along hills overlooking the Bay. Eggers... (full context)
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In recent months, Eggers has tried half-heartedly to secure funding for Might. Lance even set up meetings for him... (full context)
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...realizes he should go back to rehab, and because he has no money, he asks Eggers to foot the bill. Eggers obliges, driving to pick him up “from some place in... (full context)
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...says, “a stand-in for someone else, for your dad, for these people who disappoint you—” Eggers interrupts to say that he is like his father, but John insists that he “can’t... (full context)
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Eggers insists to John that he’s “allowed” to tell these stories. “I am owed,” he says.... (full context)
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Eggers attends a party celebrating Shalini’s birthday and recovery. She has fully healed, except for the... (full context)
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Most of Eggers’s friends have moved away. Moodie has gone to New York, as have Kirsten and Zev.... (full context)
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In the middle of a description of how good he and Toph are at Frisbee, Eggers writes, “Oh I’m not going to fix you, John, or any of you people. I... (full context)
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Having turned on his readers, Eggers writes, “What the fuck does it take to show you motherfuckers, what does it fucking... (full context)