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Literature / A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

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A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is a 2000 non-fiction novel by Dave Eggers, the founder of McSweeney's Quarterly. The novel is about Eggers' adoption of his significantly younger brother, Christopher "Toph", after the deaths of both of their parents from cancer. Over the course of the novel, Eggers learns how to be a father figure to his brother, starts a zine called Might in San Francisco, and auditions for The Real World.

Eggers also plays around with whether A.H.W.O.S.G. is fiction or not, even offering the reader the option of mailing him their non-fiction version and trading it in for a fiction version.

Tropes featured include:

  • Orphan's Ordeal
  • Promotion to Parent: Eggers himself.
  • Slice of Life
  • This Is a Work of Fiction: Lampshaded.
    "This is a work of fiction, only in that many cases, the author could not remember the exact words said by certain people, and exact descriptions of certain things, so had to fill in the gaps as best he could. Otherwise, all characters and incidents and dialogue are real.... Any resemblance to persons living or dead should be plainly apparent to them and those who know them, especially if the author has been kind enough to have provided their real names and, in some cases, their phone numbers. All events described herein actually happened, though on occasion the author has taken certain, very small, liberties with chronology, because that is his right as an American."