"Well, this was when Bill was sighing a lot. He had decided that after our parents died he just didn't want any more fighting between what was left of us. He was twenty-four, Beth was twenty-three, I was twenty-one, Toph was eight, and all of us were so tried already, from that winter. So when something world come up, any little thing, some bill to pay or decision to make, he would just sigh, his eyes tired, his mouth in a sorry kind of smile. But Beth and I...Jesus, we were fighting with everyone, anyone, each other, with ...
"Well, this was when Bill was sighing a lot. He had decided that after our parents died he just didn't want any more fighting between what was left of us. He was twenty-four, Beth was twenty-three, I was twenty-one, Toph was eight, and all of us were so tried already, from that winter. So when something world come up, any little thing, some bill to pay or decision to make, he would just sigh, his eyes tired, his mouth in a sorry kind of smile. But Beth and I...Jesus, we were fighting with everyone, anyone, each other, with strangers at bars, anywhere -- we were angry people wanting to exact revenge. We came to California and we wanted everything, would take what was ours, anything within reach. And I decided that little Toph and I, he with his backward hat and long hair, living together in our little house in Berkeley, would be world-destroyers. We inherited each other and, we felt, a responsibility to reinvent everything, to scoff and re-create and drive fast while singing loudly and pounding the windows. It was a hopeless sort of exhilaration, a kind of arrogance born of fatalism, I guess, of the feeling that if you could lose a couple of parents in a month, then basically anything could happen, at any time -- all bullets bear your name, all cars are there to crush you, any balcony could give way; more disaster seemed only logical. And then, as in Dorothy's dream, all these people I grew up with were there, too, some of them orphans also, most but not all of us believing that what we had been given was extraordinary, that it was time to tear or break down, ruin, remake, take and devour. This was San Francisco, you know, and everyone had some dumb idea -- I mean, "wicca?" -- and noone there would tell you yours was doomed. Thus the public nudity, and this ridiculous magazine, and the "Real World" tryout, all this need, most of it disguised by sneering, but all driven by a hyper-awareness of this window, I guess, a few years when your muscles are taut, coiled up and vibrating. But what to do with the energy? I mean, when we drive, Toph and I, and we drive past people, standing on top of all these hills, part of me wants to stop the car and turn up the radio and have us all dance in formation, and part of me wants to run them all over."
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(I?m sure other reviewers out there have come up with much more cleverly insulting re-workings of the title, which lends itself to cleverly insulting re-workings, but I just don?t have their flair.)
I hated this book so much I wished it was sentient so I could do it physical harm. This would have been an acceptable substitute for doing Dave Eggars physical harm.
I wish I could give it zero--or negative--stars. But I guess 1 will have to suffice.
I just don't understand how a book with this basic plot--a young man who loses his parents and must care for his young brother--can be so nauseatingly awful. This is truly Eggars' greatest achievement.
I came away from [what I read of] the book with the unshakable feeling that Eggars only did about 99% of what he wrote about having done so that he could write about having done it and have it be true, so he could say it was true.
I think what got me the most, besides the mind-numbing descriptions of Eggars' magazine "work," was his painfully affected attitude of cluelessness about parenting. No matter how little experience you have, I'm pretty sure you could figure out that calling your pre-teen brother a "retard" and using frequent, R-rated swears aren't good tactics. Probably your mom impressed that upon you before she died.
All I have left to say of this book and Eggars' "talent" is, thank God your parents are dead so they were spared the embarrassment of sharing your last name, and I understand why your sister committed suicide.
Mar 17, 2008
This memoir sings. I really cannot say enough wonderful things about it. It is angry, and hopeful, and joyful, and hilarious, and touching, and wonderfully alive. I pretty much couldn't put it down. Who cares abut writerly skill and pacing and characterization, even if all these elements are solid and well deserving of the critical acclaim it has received? This book is about a gut response, not an intellectual one. Go read it.
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