All about Dave Eggers--We attempt to talk to the acclaimed author of ''A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius''

By Clarissa Cruz
Updated March 03, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

He’s pouting, pale, and bare-chested, clad in black skintight shorts, combat boots, and a studded dog collar. She’s dressed in fishnets, hot pants, and go-go boots. The pair is gyrating wildly atop a table in a Manhattan bookshop while Dave Eggers, 29, reads a poem titled ”I Hate When People Laugh at Savings.” The rowdy crowd — already subjected to a straight-faced lecture on road rage from an AAA rep — hoot and snicker as Eggers, author of the hit memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius pontificates on the merits of coupon books.

Flash forward two days: After charming a more subdued audience at a Brooklyn bar reading (”We’re Eggers worshipers,” sighs Kirsten Nelson, 24), the lanky author invited fans to join him for an art exhibit in SoHo featuring — seriously — paintings by Balinese elephants. Seems the hipster crowd would follow Eggers just about anywhere. So how is the new literary It Boy adjusting to fame?

”I’m a wreck,” he admits.

From The New York Times to Vogue, reviewers are stumbling over their keyboards to babble the praises of Eggers’ autobiography. The former Esquire staffer has been excerpted in The New Yorker and reportedly offered $2 million by New Line for the movie rights to Genius — which he declined. (”I wouldn’t necessarily mind if they did something different with it,” he remarks. ”I don’t think movies should be true to books.”)

Ostensibly the tale of how, at 21, Eggers raised his 8-year-old brother after losing both his parents to cancer in the span of five weeks, Genius is getting more attention for its smart-alecky asides, acute self-awareness, and rambling passages that turn the conventions of memoir writing upside down, diagonally, and sideways.

”His talent is certainly visionary and almost reckless,” says Eggers’ editor, Geoff Kloske. ”He doesn’t worry about how his work is going to be received, as much as he is concerned with doing exactly as he intends.” Eggers certainly proved that to us, refusing to sit for a traditional Q&A and insisting on drawing the answers to our questions. Having a strong background in graphic design, he often decorates his postmodern literary mag McSweeney’s with his own illustrations.

”Oh I’m sorry,” Kloske clucks sympathetically when informed of the interview arrangement. ”I suppose he wanted to do something different. I hope it works out.”

So do we.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

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  • Dave Eggers