A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Eggers’s little brother. Like Eggers, Toph watches his parents die within five weeks of one another. Since he’s only seven at the time, he’s less involved (or present) during their final days than Eggers, spending the majority of his time playing videogames in the basement as a way of avoiding his parents’ deaths. At first, Toph is quiet and apprehensive when he, Eggers, and Beth move to California. Unsure of this new arrangement, he eyes his older brother questioningly, though he eventually comes to appreciate Eggers’s exuberant optimism, enjoying—for instance—throwing the Frisbee in elaborate ways on the beach and coming home to a squalid, bachelor-style apartment. Whether or not he knows it, Toph is a major source of worry for Eggers, who constantly fears that he’ll run into harm. What’s more, Eggers also worries about the fact that he has written so extensively about Toph, though he indicates that his little brother approves of his intentions and his memoir project as a whole. In keeping with the sense of affirmation that Toph lends Eggers, he assures his older brother at the end of the book, when they’re about to move to New York, that he likes the idea, saying that he thinks “it’s good to move around, see stuff, not get stuck.” In this way, he returns the support his brother gives him, creating a “symbiotic” relationship.

Toph Eggers Quotes in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

The A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius quotes below are all either spoken by Toph Eggers or refer to Toph 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:
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). 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.
Chapter 1 Quotes

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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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 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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Toph Eggers Character Timeline in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

The timeline below shows where the character Toph Eggers appears in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Preface to This Edition
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...the hospital while lying on an extra bed with his sister Beth and little brother Toph; Eggers’s botched attempt to paint a portrait of his friend’s dead father; and Eggers’s fear... (full context)
Acknowledgements
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Eggers thanks the people who have allowed him to write about them, especially Beth and Toph. Moving on, he acknowledges that there are “perhaps too many memoir-sorts of books being written... (full context)
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.../ Weird Symbiosis Factor,” which has to do with his relationship with his little brother, Toph. Eggers doesn’t spend much time unpacking this in this section, though he does suggest that... (full context)
Chapter 1
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As Eggers holds his mother’s nose again, Toph comes upstairs from the basement, where he has been playing video games. “I can’t get... (full context)
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...again with a vengeance. He grasps her nose, squeezing so hard he hurts her. Meanwhile, Toph comes upstairs and announces that he’s hungry, but Eggers tells him he can’t feed him... (full context)
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...Eggers’s place holding the ice to their mother’s nose, and Eggers goes downstairs to tell Toph that he’ll order pizza soon. When he comes back upstairs, he takes the plastic receptacle... (full context)
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...to keep. Once he loads her into the backseat, Beth comes into the garage with Toph, who sits in the station wagon’s rear seat. When they’re all in the car, Beth... (full context)
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...visitors. As their mother sleeps, Beth and Eggers lie on an adjacent hospital bed with Toph and talk about how disconcerting it is to hear the pauses in their mother’s breathing.... (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 their mother’s... (full context)
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...bed will be gone, too,” Eggers writes. Not long after she’s gone, he will take Toph to watch the Chicago Bulls practice, and they will sign his baseball cards. Eggers and... (full context)
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...that he and Beth will sell the family house a week after their mother dies. Toph will finish third grade while he himself drops classes. Eggers won’t earn his college diploma,... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Eggers and Toph speed along Highway 1 in California, winding along the coast and listening to loud music.... (full context)
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Eggers and Toph live with Kirsten, Beth, and Beth’s friend in a sublet overlooking the Bay. Their lease... (full context)
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Toph joins a Little League baseball team, so Eggers spends many of his afternoons sitting on... (full context)
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Eggers explains that he, Beth, and Toph left Chicago quickly, selling almost everything in the house. Now, everyone living in the sublet... (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 expected, because real estate agents are quick to judge him.... (full context)
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Toph and Eggers repaint the house, making each room a different color. “The place is ours... (full context)
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...companies for two- or three-day assignments. Beth—who is in her first year of law school—picks Toph up every day and brings him to her apartment until Eggers can retrieve him, at... (full context)
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Toph and Eggers arrive late to the open house at Toph’s school. Eggers curses, blaming Toph... (full context)
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...to see how old and boring the parents are at the open house. He and Toph, on the other hand, are “great-looking.” “We are new and everyone else is old,” he... (full context)
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...play script. Fumbling through the initial questions (“This is…your son?”), this woman eventually learns that Toph and Eggers are brothers. “You go to school at Cal?” she asks, and when he... (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 outrageous just... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...go out. Unfortunately, he knows he can’t, since he and Beth aren’t yet comfortable leaving Toph with a babysitter. This has made it hard for him to date, though even when... (full context)
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Toph gets out of school on Fridays at noon, so Eggers takes work off to spend... (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... (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 with the fact... (full context)
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Toph suggests that Eggers thinks of himself as quite “open” but that, in reality, this isn’t... (full context)
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Toph says that Eggers is driven by anger, which is perhaps the result of having grown... (full context)
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Toph says that Eggers likes to pretend they’re “lower class” because they receive “Social Security and... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...and sandals rings Eggers’s doorbell, and although Eggers is closer to the door, he makes Toph answer. “I’m not here,” he instructs his little brother, thinking that the man must be... (full context)
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...become convinced, in a flash of pure truth-seeing—it happens every time I leave him anywhere—that Toph will be killed,” he writes. In his head, he runs through all the signs that... (full context)
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Eggers thinks about being held accountable for leaving Toph with a murder. He imagines the questions he’d be asked in trial, providing a prospective... (full context)
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...Eggers likes that his friends are here, since they are the “only ties” he and Toph—whom they’ve all known for a long time—have to Illinois. As such, Eggers tries to get... (full context)
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...college. Since then, John has been depressed. Now, in the bar, he asks Eggers how Toph is doing. “Fine,” Eggers replies, thinking of “pliers” and “handcuffs” and other terrifying possibilities. “Where... (full context)
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...which Eggers finds “obscene.” As he thinks this, another friend approaches and asks him about Toph, saying, “Where is he, anyway?” Eggers wonders why he has been asked this question twice... (full context)
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When Eggers returns from the bathroom, another friend approaches him and asks about Toph. This friend doesn’t know Toph quite as well, asking what his name is and then—predictably—asking... (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,... (full context)
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...his house, he thinks again about all the terrible things Stephen has probably done to Toph. Inside, though, he finds Toph asleep on the couch. After he sends Stephen home, Eggers... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...told. “Can you not see that we’re extraordinary?” he asks her, referring to himself and Toph. “That we were meant for something else, something more?” He tells her he wants to... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Eggers goes to the park with Toph, who is now eleven. They play Frisbee for a while, attracting attention with their fancy... (full context)
Chapter 8
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One evening, Eggers and Toph walk by a restaurant where, they discover, Bill Clinton is eating. Excited, they line up... (full context)
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...this point lived in Berkeley, meaning that she has always been close to Eggers and Toph. As such, Eggers feels stranded in the suburbs, so he decides that he and Toph... (full context)
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Toph is getting older. Eggers hates the fact that he is the only person in his... (full context)
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...hospital, he learns that he has a kidney stone. Afterwards, when he’s recovering at home, Toph goes to the grocery store, buys ingredients, and makes dinner. (full context)
Chapter 9
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...Eight is Enough—agrees, and Eggers is ecstatic to have the opportunity to satirize celebrity eulogies. Toph, on the other hand, isn’t so sure. “To tell you the truth,” he says, “I... (full context)
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Toph reminds Eggers of the time he and the other Might editors went to New York... (full context)
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Eggers insists that Sari wasn’t offended by what he wrote, and Toph suggests that she’s probably just used to such things. “But don’t you see this is... (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... (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. “You know... (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 final touches... (full context)
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...her, he feels bad about the fact that he “exploded” in the car, yelling at Toph and sounding like his parents used to when they were angry at him. When Sari... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...embarrassed by the entire thing (Beth walked down the aisle to a KISS song). With Toph staying in LA with Bill, Eggers will remain in Illinois for a few extra days... (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. “We’re all... (full context)
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...maybe he should travel to Cape Cod, though this would require asking Bill to keep Toph longer, and then he’d have to tell the family what he’s doing. (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 outside of... (full context)
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Eggers and Toph ease onto a dirt road that winds along hills overlooking the Bay. Eggers takes his... (full context)
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...isn’t even one of Eggers’s closest friends. He then says that he feels sorry for Toph, who probably didn’t have “much say” in “this whole process.” Eggers objects to this, saying... (full context)
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...Moodie has gone to New York, as have Kirsten and Zev. And now Eggers and Toph are going, too, “because going to work every day is starting to tear [Eggers] into... (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... (full context)