Monday, October 13, 2008

Tragic Endings

Firstly, I feel compelled to apologize for my lackadaisical blog ethic. I was out of town (again) for the weekend. Chum Colclough got hitched, the latest in what seems to be my 475th friend to get married this year. Regardless of the never-ending nature of the train of weddings that have transpired, twas a nice wedding. Idyllic scene for the ceremony (short, sweet, and fairly secular, too--all of which are aces in my book). The reception was great, too. Kudos to Mr. and Mrs. Colclough.


Now, on the plane on the way back, the girl sitting next to me busted out her copy of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which got me to reminiscing. Well, not so much reminiscing as fuming.

First off, I should admit the following: it's been quite a few years since I read that book. The details of the book are hazy at this point. I remember a hilarious diagram relating to sliding across the floor of Dave and Toph's pad in socks. I remember laughing out loud a few times. I was pretty pleased with the reading experience.

That is until the end. Now many of you may have read the book. Maybe you understood the ending. I'm by no means a genius (I contemplated misspelling genius, there), but I generally 'get' the things I read. I don't think anyone would include Dave Eggers in an conversation with Thomas Pynchon or James Joyce or Fyodor Dostoevsky when talking about somewhat inaccessible authors, but I've read them and had a pretty good grasp on what their books meant.

So here is an open request to any of the readers of this blog, casual or rabid, who have read Dave Eggers's book. If you were able to make sense of the ending of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (which is such an irritating name that I'm somewhat bothered by just having to type it twice), share its meaning here.

My take is that Eggers got to the point where he had nothing left to write that was pertinent to the story, didn't really know how to close things out, and decided that he'd just write an obtuse beach frisbee ramble that could then seem like it was really deep when it was really just a surrender to the difficulty of ending a book well.

And I'm not necessarily blaming him for not being able to end a book because I know it can't be easy. I'm also semi-sure that he's a great guy. I'd probably get along with him well if we were talking. I just think the ending was an attempt to mask an inability to finish, and I know I'm not alone because others have shared this sentiment with me (although more often than not lacking the emotional involvement that I feel on the matter).

In a semi-interesting addendum, my famous friend, Sean, has a habit of putting me on the phone with celebrities when he's at Live Wire tapings or book signings, which is what he did when he was in line at an Eggers signing. Knowing my feelings on the book, he decided that he was not going to ask Eggers my question himself, so he put me on the phone with him and I asked him whether or not the ending actually meant anything, to which he replied that I should re-read the book. I, of course, responded with the assertion that I had read the ending three or four times and that I could only conclude that the faux-metaphorical ending was a cop out for not knowing how to end the book and that if I read A Heartbreaking Work again it meant that I would not be buying the book he was peddling. He still insisted that I needed to re-read the book, which leads me to one of two possible conclusions: I'm just not that bright (totally possible), or he was bristling at being called out.

So, can anyone out there explain this ending?

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