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Five things I didn't know about Dave Eggers

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by JayFarrar, Oct 31, 2006.

  1. JayFarrar

    JayFarrar Well-Known Member

    I got to meet and hang out a little bit with Dave Eggers, who did A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and has been called the best young writer in America. He helped found McSweeney's and all its family of publications, plus he has a new book out on Sudan and the Lost Boys, which is, by all accounts, spectacular.
    I've grown pretty jaded, but in 15 years he's the first, and probably the last, who made me think that I have the coolest job.
    Anyway he shared some things I didn't know and I thought it might be of interest to this online community of sportsjournalists.
    • He was a consultant for ESPN the Magazine.
    • The "Jump" was his idea.
    • The Answer Guy and the Betting Line were his direct creations and he wrote them for the first few issues
    • He runs out of words. As in he works on something and then he can't get anything else down because he doesn't know what to say.
    • He was a staff writer at Esquire and he didn't much care for the corporate culture of magazines but he is Esquire's debt since it was their equipment, facilities, copiers which lead the creation of the Believer.
  2. DyePack

    DyePack New Member

    No. 6: He was once an acquaintance of DyePack, but he's probably forgotten.
  3. Sly

    Sly Active Member

    I just ordered his new book. Thanks to the trial of Amazon Prime, I'll have it before the weekend.

    I've never known how to feel about Eggers. He's obviously a brilliant writer and I'll read whatever he comes out with. On the other hand, there's a thick layer of egotism that often coats his writing. Makes me sometimes think that he's touching himself while typing. Franzen makes me suspect the same thing.

    But who knows? That feeling could just be a byproduct of tremendous jealousy ...
  4. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure it's ego with Eggers. I think it's a combination of the fact that he's extremely clever, maybe too clever for his own good sometimes, and that he can't stand celebrity culture, even though he's become a celebrity, and once that happens, it's not something you can really undo.

    A lot of people say stuff like "oh, it's just an act" and "he's a phony" in part because I think it's just too hard to process that someone might do the things he does because he genuinely wants to. He makes a bunch of money from his memoir and what does he do with it? He opens a free writing center in San Francisco to tutor kids, specifically poor kids, and give them access to real published writers who are willing to help them with their work, or just help them learn how to write more clearly. And instead of hiring people to do the stuff, he's actually at the center, doing the teaching. And now there are versions of it in NY, LA, Seattle, Chicago, Ann Arbor. It's pretty easy, if you've got money, to just write a check and feel good about yourself, but it's a much larger contribution to actually do the teaching.

    I admire him for other reasons to. He gets tired of seeing fawning profiles about himself, so he stops doing interveiws. He could have gotten a ridiculous advance for he second book, and what does he do instead? He self-publishes. I admire that the whole point of McSweeney's is to give writers who have never been published a place to get published. And supposedly, they read ever submission. The New Yorker doesn't even take submissions, and brags about it, which is why the keep publishing the same kind of thing over and over, but McSweeney's is constantly coming up with new voices.

    And with his most recent novel, instead of writing something silly and self-absorbed like so many of the "IT" writers of his generation, he writes a book about the civil war in Sudan, then donates ALL the book's profits to charity.

    I think, too, that the belief that he has a gigantic ego (whether it's true or not) comes from his backlash against criticism -- all criticism. I don't think he minded his work being ripped as much as he simply loated people who made a living off of ripping other people's work. You see that here occasionally at SportsJournalists.com, when it's just rip, rip, rip, and not a lot of positive contribution from a few posters. That's what gives off the air Eggers has of "I'm above it all" which I don't think is accurate. I think he also kind of likes to be in control, likes to have the final say in everything about an article, which I've read it why he locked horns with people at Esquire, and they mutually parted ways.

    I just wish he had more time to write. Because he's a hell of a writer.
  5. JayFarrar

    JayFarrar Well-Known Member

    He also threw away a 600-page manuscript that would have followed Heartbreaking. He decided it wasn't good enough.
    After his talk, he didn't do a reading from the new book, since Valentino (SP?), the subject of the new book wasn't there. He only does readings when they are together. He chatted with the editor of a local magazine, while I was waiting after it was over and he went on in length about the "top-editing" process at Esquire and just his views on magazines, the readers, everything. It was pretty spectacular.
    As a homage to Double Down I asked him about his rep as a book blurbs whore and he said, sure he does blurbs for his friends and the people he knows. Sometimes for the manuscripts of writers his friends know because he said that having his name on it will help their sales and these are the people who give back.
    I went in with some preconceived notions of how he would be and they were exceeded. In all reality I left with a man crush.
  6. Sly

    Sly Active Member

    I agree that what he's done for the writing world is fantastic. I was talking more about his writing, which sometimes gets away into a sort of "Hey, look at how talented I am!" netherworld.

    Another good example is the "short story" in his published collection that was nothing but a bunch of blank pages.
  7. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    Jay, have you read "Shiny Adidas Track Suits and the Death of Camp"? It's a collection of essays from Might magazine, which is the indie mag Eggers started and writes about in HBWOSG. It's really quite funny.

    Sly, there is some truth to what you say. I'm not a big fan of some of the gimmicky stuff he and Jonathan Safran Foer are so in love with, but you have to understand that a lot of Eggers schtick is mocking traditional literary "rules." I think with "How We Are Hungry" he just wanted to do something quiet and different, and the blank page short story is really just his idea of a funny joke. It's kind of nerdy, but I don't think he was trying to make any kind of statement.

    It's sort of like calling the collection of McSweeney's writing "The Better of McSweeney's" instead of The Best. It's just their idea of humor, really.
  8. Mira

    Mira Member

    Time Magazine did a piece on him in this week's issue.

    I liked Staggering Genius and Eggers' writing, to me, is brilliant. I wish I could have those creative juices flowing with that much frequency.
  9. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    Helped start McSweeney's = gets a free pass.

    Invite him to join us in our little sandbox/catbox.
  10. imjustagirl2

    imjustagirl2 New Member

    I've never met him, in all likelihood never will.

    But I heart Dave Eggers.
  11. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    Is "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" about the so-called chess master who goes to Africa? If so, I read that story a few months ago and loved it, especially the ending, which I didn't like at first until I started to connect it to the heart of the story.
  12. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    HBWOSG is Eggers memoir, Xan, which is about the fact that both his parents died of cancer within a few weeks of one another, and he was forced to take care and raise his 12-year-old brother. Eggers started a magazine in San Francisco, then joined Esquire when his magazine when under, then quit Esquire to start his own literary web stie/publishing company.
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