Ian Sansom

  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
    Picador, 415 pp, £14.99, July 2000, ISBN 0 330 48454 0

The title of Dave Eggers’s book is fair warning: it prepares the reader to put on a happy face. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius comes emulsioned with the kind of compliments and absurd little pronunciamentos that stretch credulity. ‘The force and energy of this book could power a train,’ apparently. Goodness knows what kind of vehicle you might be able to start up if you could harness the force and energy of Ulysses or King Lear – a giant Ariane V, powered by a 170-ton liquid-propellant rocket motor assisted by twin 270-ton solid-fuel boosters, perhaps. Forcing one’s way beyond the countdown of air-kisses and back-slappings and venturing on into the book itself, you’re hit on the very first page with a neat little riff on the usual formalities:

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