Eggers at the 2007 Brooklyn Book Festival
March 12, 1970 |
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Occupation||Writer, editor, publisher, philanthropist|
|Literary movement||Postmodern literature, post-postmodern, new sincerity|
|Notable works||A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000), What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng (2006), Zeitoun (2009), A Hologram for the King (2012), The Circle (2013)|
|Notable awards||Heinz Award, Independent Publisher Book Award, Prix Médicis, Los Angeles Times Book Prize|
Dave Eggers (born March 12, 1970) is an American writer, editor, and publisher. He wrote the best-selling memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. He is also the founder of McSweeney's, a literary journal; the co-founder of the literacy project 826 Valencia, and a human rights nonprofit Voice of Witness, and the founder of ScholarMatch, a program that matches donors with students needing funds for college tuition. His writing has appeared in several magazines.
Eggers was born in Boston, Massachusetts, one of four siblings. His father, John K. Eggers (1936–1991), an attorney, was Protestant. His mother, Heidi McSweeney Eggers (1940–1992), a school teacher, was Catholic. When Eggers was still a child, the family moved to the suburb of Lake Forest, near Chicago, where he attended high school and was a classmate of actor Vince Vaughn. Eggers attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, intending to get a degree in journalism. But, his studies were interrupted by the deaths of both of his parents in 1991–1992: his father in 1991 from brain and lung cancer, and his mother in January 1992 from stomach cancer. Both were in their 50s.
These events were chronicled in his first book, the fictionalized A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. At the time, Eggers was 21, and his younger brother, Christopher ("Toph"), was 8 years old. The two eldest siblings, Bill and Beth, were unable to commit to care for Toph; his older brother had a full-time job and his sister was enrolled in law school. As a result, Dave Eggers took the responsibility. He left the University of Illinois and moved to Berkeley, California, with his girlfriend Kirsten and his brother. They initially moved in with Eggers' sister, Beth, and her roommate, but eventually found a place in another part of town, which they paid for with money left to them by their parents. Toph attended a small private school, and Eggers did temp work and freelance graphic design for a local newspaper. Eventually, with his friend David Moodie, he took over a local free newspaper called Cups. This gradually evolved into the satirical magazine Might.
Eggers's elder brother, Bill, is a researcher who has worked for several conservative think tanks, doing research promoting privatization. Eggers's sister, Beth, committed suicide in November 2001. Eggers briefly spoke about his sister's death during a 2002 fan interview for McSweeney's.
He was one of three 2008 TED Prize recipients. His TED Prize wish was for helping community members to personally engage with local public schools. The same year, he was named one of "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing the World" by Utne Reader.
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Eggers began writing as a Salon.com editor and founded Might magazine in San Francisco in the early 1990s with David Moodie and Marny Requa, while also writing a comic strip called Smarter Feller (originally Swell) for SF Weekly.
Might evolved out of the small San Francisco-based independent paper Cups, and gathered a loyal following with its irreverent humour and quirky approach to the issues and personalities of the day. An article purporting to be an obituary of former 1980s child star Adam Rich (originally intended to be Back to the Future star Crispin Glover, until Glover backed-out) garnered some national attention. The magazine regularly included humour pieces, and a number of essays and non-fiction pieces by seminal 1990s writers, including "Impediments to Passion", an essay on sex in the AIDS era by David Foster Wallace.
However, as Eggers later recounted in his memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, the magazine consistently struggled to make a profit, and finally ceased publication in 1997. An anthology of the best of Might magazine's brief run, 'Shiny Adidas Tracksuits and the Death of Camp' and Other Essays from Might Magazine, was published in late 1998. By this time, Eggers was freelancing for Esquire magazine and continuing to work for Salon.
Eggers' first book was a memoir (with fictional elements), A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000), which focused on the author's struggle to raise his younger brother in San Francisco following the deaths of both of their parents. The book quickly became a bestseller and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. The memoir was praised for its originality, idiosyncratic self-referencing, and for several innovative stylistic elements. Early printings of the 2001 trade-paperback edition were published with a lengthy postscript entitled, Mistakes We Knew We Were Making.
In 2002, Eggers published his first fully fictional novel, You Shall Know Our Velocity, a story about a frustrating attempt to give away money to deserving people while haphazardly traveling the globe. An expanded and revised version was released as Sacrament in 2003. A version without the new material in Sacrament was created and retitled You Shall Know Our Velocity! for a Vintage imprint distribution. He has since published a collection of short stories, How We Are Hungry, and three politically themed serials for Salon.com.
In November 2005, Eggers published Surviving Justice: America's Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated, a book of interviews with former prisoners sentenced to death and later exonerated. The book was compiled with Lola Vollen, "a physician specializing in the aftermath of large-scale human rights abuses" and "a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley's Institute of International Studies and a practicing clinician".
Eggers's 2006 novel What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. Eggers also edits the Best American Nonrequired Reading series, an annual anthology of short stories, essays, journalism, satire, and alternative comics.
Eggers was one of the original contributors to ESPN The Magazine and helped create its section "The Jump". He also acted as the first, anonymous "Answer Guy", a column that continued to run after he stopped working for the publication.
On November 7, 2009, he was presented with the "Courage in Media" Award by the Council on American-Islamic Relations for his book Zeitoun. Zeitoun has been optioned by Jonathan Demme, who is working on a screenplay for an animated film-rendition of the work. To Demme, it "felt like the first in-depth immersion I'd ever had through literature or film into the Muslim-American family. … The moral was that they are like people of any other faith, and I hope our film, if we can get it made, will also be like that." Demme, quoted in early 2011, expressed confidence that when the script is finished, he will be able to find financing, perhaps even from a major studio.
In the early 2010s, after going six years without publishing substantive literary fiction following What is the What, Eggers began a three-year streak of back-to-back novels, each broadly concerned with pressing social and political issues facing the United States and the wider world in the twenty-first century. Eggers published his novel of the Great Recession and late 2000s financial crisis, A Hologram for the King, in July 2012. In October of that year, the novel was announced as a finalist for the National Book Award.
Eggers followed this the following October with 2013's The Circle, which depicts the life of a young worker at a fictional San Francisco-based technology company in the near future as she faces doubts about her vocation, due to the company's seemingly well-intentioned innovations revealing a more sinister underlying agenda. Completing the productive spell, a new novel concerning anxiety with America's place in the world, Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?, was published in June 2014. In November 2015, Your Fathers, Where Are They... was longlisted for the 2016 International Dublin Literary Award, Eggers' fifth nomination for the award following earlier nominations for The Circle, A Hologram for the King, The Wild Things, and What is the What.
In July 2016, Eggers publish his sixth novel, Heroes of the Frontier, . Earlier the same year, a film adaptation of Eggers' earlier novel A Hologram for the King was released, to mixed reviews and middling commercial performance. An adaptation of The Circle starring Emma Watson, John Boyega, and Tom Hanks (who had starred in the A Hologram for the King adaptation), is due to follow in April 2017.
Eggers founded McSweeney's, an independent publishing house, named for his mother's maiden name. The publishing house produces a quarterly literary journal, Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, first published in 1998; a monthly journal, The Believer, which debuted in 2003 and is edited by Eggers's wife, Vendela Vida; and, beginning in 2005, a quarterly DVD magazine, Wholphin. Other works include The Future Dictionary of America, Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans, and "Dr. and Mr. Haggis-On-Whey", all children's books of literary nonsense, which Eggers writes with his younger brother and uses as a pseudonym.
Ahead of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Eggers wrote an essay about the U.S. national team and soccer in the United States for The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup, which contained essays about each competing team in the tournament and was published with aid from the journal Granta. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, Eggers was rumored to be a possible candidate to be the new editor of The Paris Review before the Review selected Lorin Stein.
Visual art work
While at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Eggers attended art classes. After the publication of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, he focused mainly on writing, but publicly returned to visual art with a solo gallery show at Electric Works, San Francisco, in 2010, called "It Is Right to Draw Their Fur." The show featured many drawings of animals often paired with phrases, sometimes out of the Bible. In conjunction with that exhibition, McSweeney's published a catalog featuring 25 loose-leaf prints of the work featured in the show. In 2015 Eggers had his first solo museum exhibition at the Nevada Museum of Art called "The Insufferable Throne of God". Eggers is represented by Electric Works a fine art gallery in San Francisco.
Outside of exhibitions, Eggers' visual art contributions include the following:
- Provided album art for Austin rock group Paul Banks & the Carousels' album Yelling at the Sun.
- Designed the artwork for Thrice's album Vheissu.
In 2002, Eggers and educator Nínive Clements Calegari co-founded 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for kids ages 6–18 in San Francisco. It has since grown into six chapters across the United States: Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Washington, D.C., and Boston, all under the auspices of the nonprofit organization 826 National.
In 2006, he appeared at a series of fund-raising events, dubbed the Revenge of the Book–Eaters tour, to support these programs. The Chicago show, at the Park West theatre, featured Death Cab for Cutie front man Ben Gibbard. Other performers on the tour included Sufjan Stevens, Jon Stewart, Davy Rothbart, and David Byrne. In September 2007, the Heinz Family Foundation awarded Eggers a $250,000 Heinz Award (given to recognize "extraordinary achievements by individuals") in the Arts and Humanities. In accordance with Eggers's wishes, the award money was given to 826 National and The Teacher Salary Project.
- Eggers can be heard talking with Spike Jonze during "The Horrible Fanfare/Landslide/Exoskeleton", the final track on Beck's 2006 album The Information. The third section of the track features Eggers and Jonze responding to Beck's question, "What would the ultimate record that ever could possibly be made sound like?"
- Eggers contributed lyrics to the song, "The Ghost of Rita Gonzolo", on One Ring Zero's album As Smart as We Are (2004).
Awards and honors
- 2000 Time Best Book of the Year, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
- 2000 Washington Post Best Book of the Year, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
- 2000 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
- 2000 Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
- 2000 New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
- 2001 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction finalist, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
- 2001 Addison Metcalfe Award (American Academy of Arts and Letters)
- 2003 Independent Book Award, You Shall Know Our Velocity
- 2005 Named one of TIME Magazine's 100 Most Influential People
- 2006 Salon Book Award for What is the What
- 2007 Heinz Award (Arts and Humanities)
- 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award (Fiction) finalist, What is the What
- 2008 TED Prize
- 2008 International Dublin Literary Award longlist, What is the What
- 2009 Literarian Award of the National Book Award
- 2009 Prix Médicis award, What is the What
- 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize (Current Interest), Zeitoun
- 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize (Innovator's Award)
- 2009 Entertainment Weekly "End-of-the-Decade" Best of list, Zeitoun
- 2010 American Book Award, Zeitoun
- 2010 Northern California Book Award (Creative Nonfiction) nomination, Zeitoun
- 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Zeitoun
- 2011 International Dublin Literary Award longlist, The Wild Things
- 2012 National Book Award (Fiction) finalist, A Hologram for the King
- 2012 A Hologram for the King named in the 10 Best Books of 2012 list by editors of The New York Times Book Review
- 2012 A Hologram for the King included in Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2012 list
- 2012 Commonwealth Club Inforum's 21st Century Award
- 2012 Hollywood.com Best Books of 2012 list, A Hologram for the King)
- 2012 Albatros Literaturpreis for Zeitoun, co-won with German translators Ulrike Wasel and Klaus Timmermann.
- 2012 New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2012 List (Fiction & Poetry), A Hologram for the King
- 2012 New York Times 10 Best Books of 2012 list (Fiction, chosen by the editors of The New York Times Book Review), A Hologram for the King
- 2012 PEN Center USA Award of Honor 2012
- 2013 Eggers was the 2013 recipient of Smithsonian magazine's American Ingenuity Award in the Social Progress category
- 2013 California Book Award (Fiction)finalist, A Hologram for the King
- 2014 International Dublin Literary Award longlist, A Hologram for the King
- 2015 International Dublin Literary Award longlist, The Circle
- 2015 Inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters
- 2016 International Dublin Literary Award shortlist, Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?
- A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000)
- Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America's Teachers (co-authored with Daniel Moulthrop and Nínive Clements Calegari) (2005)
- Surviving Justice: America's Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated (co-compiled with Lola Vollen; with an introduction by Scott Turow) (2005)
- Zeitoun (2009)
- Visitants (2016)
- You Shall Know Our Velocity (novel) (2002)
- Sacrament (revised and expanded version of You Shall Know Our Velocity) (2003)
- The Unforbidden is Compulsory; or, Optimism (novella) (2004)
- How We Are Hungry (short stories) (2004)
- Short Short Stories (short stories, part of the Pocket Penguin series) (2005)
- What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng (novel) (2006)
- How the Water Feels to the Fishes (short stories; part of One Hundred and Forty-Five Stories in a Small Box) (2007)
- The Wild Things – novel inspired by Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
- A Hologram for the King (2012)
- The Circle (2013)
- Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? (2014)
- Stories Upon Stories (short-story anthology; editor and contributor) (2016)
- Heroes of the Frontier (2016)
- Giraffes? Giraffes! (as Dr. and Mr. Doris Haggis-On-Whey, co-authored with Christopher Eggers) (2003)
- Your Disgusting Head (as Dr. and Mr. Doris Haggis-On-Whey, co-authored with Christopher Eggers) (2004)
- Animals of the Ocean, in Particular the Giant Squid (as Dr. and Mr. Doris Haggis-On-Whey, co-authored with Christopher Eggers) (2006)
- Cold Fusion (as Dr. and Mr. Doris Haggis-On-Whey, co-authored with Christopher Eggers) (2009)
- Away We Go, with wife Vendela Vida (2009)
- Where the Wild Things Are, with director Spike Jonze (2009)
- Promised Land, screenplay by Matt Damon and John Krasinski, story by Dave Eggers (2012)
- Jokes Told in Heaven About Babies (as Lucy Thomas) (2003)
- Salon.com serials: "The Unforbidden Is Compulsory Or, Optimism", "The Fishmonger Returns", and "New Hampshire Is for Lovers" (2004)
- The Bridge Will Not Be Gray (with illustrations by Tucker Nichols) (2015)
- Some Recollections from a Busy Life: The Forgotten Story of the Real Town of Hollister, California by T.S. Hawkins (2016) (Eggers provides the introduction to a reprint of an autobiography by his great, great grandfather originally published in 1913)
Criticism and interpretation
- Boxall, Peter. Twenty-First-Century Fiction: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge University Press, 2013. [contains discussion of What is the What]
- D'Amore, Jonathan. American Authorship and Autobiographical Narrative: Mailer, Wideman, Eggers. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. [joint study on works of Norman Mailer, John Edgar Wideman, and Eggers; contains discussion of ...Staggering Genius, "Mistakes We Knew We Were Making", You Shall Know Our Velocity, and What is the What]
- den Dulk, Allard. Existentialist Engagement in Wallace, Eggers and Foer. Bloomsbury, 2014. [joint study on the works of Eggers, David Foster Wallace, and Jonathan Safran Foer; contains discussion of ...Staggering Genius, You Shall Know Our Velocity and The Circle]
- Funk, Wolfgang. The Literature of Reconstruction: American Literature in the New Millennium. Bloomsbury. 2015 [contains a chapter on 'reconstructing the author' in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius]
- Galow, Timothy W. Understanding Dave Eggers. University of South Carolina Press. 2014.
- Giles, Paul. The Global Remapping of American Literature. Princeton University Press, 2011 [contains discussion of ...Staggering Genius and What is the What]
- Grassian, Daniel. Hybrid Fictions: American Literature and Generation X. McFarland, 2003 [contains discussion of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius]
- Hamilton, Caroline D. "Blank Looks: Reality TV and Memoir in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Australasian Journal of American Studies, vol.28, no.2. (December 2009), pp.31-46
- Hamilton, Caroline D. One Man Zeitgeist: Dave Eggers, Publishing and Publicity. Bloomsbury, 2012.
- Holland, Mark K. Succeeding Postmodernism: Language and Humanism in Contemporary American Literature. Bloomsbury, 2013. [contains discussion of ...Staggering Genius]
- Mosseau, Robert. "Connecting Travel Writing, Bildungsroman, and Therapeutic Culture in Dave Eggers's Literature" in Lanzendorfer, Tim [ed.] The Poetics of Genre in the Contemporary Novel. Lexington Books, 2015. [contains discussion of You Shall Know Our Velocity and A Hologram for the King]
- Peek, Michelle. "Humanitarian Narrative and Posthumanist Critique: Dave Eggers's What is the What. Biography. 35.1 (Winter, 2012), pp.115-136.
- Pignagnoli, Virginia. "Sincerity, Sharing, and Authorial Discourses on the Fiction/Nonfiction Distinction: The Case of Dave Eggers's You Shall Know Our Velocity" in Lanzendorfer, Tim [ed.] The Poetics of Genre in the Contemporary Novel. Lexington Books, 2015. [contains discussion of You Shall Know Our Velocity and The Circle]
- Timmer, Nicoline. Do You Feel it Too? The Post-Postmodern Syndrome in American Fiction at the Turn of the Millennium. Rodopi, 2010. [contains discussion of ...Staggering Genius]
- Varvogli, Aliki. Travel and Dislocation in Contemporary American Fiction. Routledge, 2012. [Contains discussion of What is the What and You Shall Know Our Velocity]
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