I subscribe to something called The Writer’s Almanac and wake up every morning to a poem and an email message listing things that went on in the literary world that day in history. Today’s listing includes something about writer and publisher Dave Eggers that I thought worth sharing here.
I could still see when I was a student at University of Illinois, and I worked at the Daily Illini, our college newspaper. Dave Eggers worked at the Daily Illini, too, and it’s his birthday today. “When he was in college at the University of Illinois, both his parents died of cancer within six months, and he was completely on his own at the age of 21,” the Writer’s Almanac reports. “He was also made the guardian of his eight-year-old brother, Christopher, so he had to drop out of college to support the family, and wrote about it in his best-selling memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.”
Eggers went on to launch his own publishing company and start a tutoring center and writing school. He’s written and edited dozens of books and screenplays, too, but what really struck me about his mention in today’s almanac was something he said about those life-altering events during his college years. I didn’t have anything nearly as catastrophic happen to me when I was 21, but the life-altering events that occurred a few years later help me understand his reaction to it all. I’ll end here with that quote — see what you think:
He later said: “On the one hand you are so completely bewildered that something so surreal and incomprehensible could happen. At the same time, suddenly the limitations or hesitations that you might have imposed on yourself fall away. There’s a weird, optimistic recklessness that could easily be construed as nihilism but is really the opposite. You see that there is a beginning and an end and that you have only a certain amount of time to act. And you want to get started.”
Thank you, Dave Eggers. Happy birthday.