Happy Birthday, Dave Eggers

March 12, 2017 • Posted in blindness, memoir writing, writing by

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.

Cover of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and link to review.

This book launched an empire, of sorts.

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.

Sheila A. Donovan On March 12, 2017 at 12:15 pm

Wh at a great quote! Thanks for sharing, Beth.

Sara Slawnik On March 12, 2017 at 12:16 pm

Thanks Beth, this is such a great sentiment. Hope you and Mike are well!

Cheryl On March 12, 2017 at 1:12 pm

Yes, Dave’s quote could be yours. You live your life fully without limits and hesitations. You amaze everyone you meet. Must have been something in that Daily Illini coffee;)

Sean On March 12, 2017 at 5:47 pm

Thanks for sharing this, Beth. I’m a big fan of his. What a delightfully thoughtful way to counter the bewilderments of life.

Mel Theobald On March 12, 2017 at 11:23 pm

Strangely, although you and Dave have experienced very different bewilderments – a kind of euphemism he describes as surreal – it is useful to remember that bewilderment comes in many different sizes and shapes. Until we find our zone for tolerance and self-worth, we are all in that state of limbo. None of us can ever let our guard down if we hope to accomplish what we set out to do. Onward we go, even if it sometimes means being (and I love this part) “optimistically reckless.” That, to me, is the source of genuine creativity.

Janet Sterling On March 13, 2017 at 2:01 pm

Yes, agree with Cheryl, this could be you!

Leave a Response