By Megan Harlan
February 25, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, the unruly but virtuosic debut by Dave Eggers (editor of the late, brilliantly satirical Gen-X magazine Might) begins with a gleefully self-referential send-up of memoirs: His ”Acknowledgements” acknowledge not only ”your problems with the title” but also the current glut of confessional memoirs. It’s all the more surprising, then, how honestly Eggers relates a sad, true story — when he was 21, his parents both died of cancer within five weeks of each other, leaving him, then in college, to raise his 8-year-old brother — and interweaves it with a witty chronicle of founding Might in San Francisco. Though too-clever literary devices (like a strange interview with an MTV Real World casting agent) run amok, his funny, furious insights into family tragedy reflect the complexity of emotion in irony done right. A-