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From 'Solitude' to 'Staggering Genius'

August 22, 2010 - Meg Alexander

I am not one to sit still for long, even when I am sitting, as my co-workers can attest. I like to switch gears, take a different route to the grocery store every day, go to a different grocery store every day, rearrange my furniture, my hairstyle, my wardrobe ...

I need change — or rather, I need the challenge of change and and the new ideas each change presents. Change, however, can be hard to come by in southern Minnesota. Thus I love the arts, which always provide me a plentiful variety of variety to satisfy my manicky little brain.

For example, I finished re-reading 100 Years of Solitude this week, allowing myself time to slowly digest a novel so rich and beautiful and wondrous, the world seemed to drop out from under me at times as I delved into the lives of the Buendia family in the mythical town of Macondo.

The first time I read 100 Years was several summers ago, in a 4-week graduate English course at MSU-Mankato. We were given one week to read the book and write a paper on it. What a tragedy. This is not a book to be rushed through but rather cherished. William Kennedy, in a review for the New York Times, wrote "One Hundred Years of Solitude is the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race."

What more can I say?

But back to my point, and yes, this blog did have a point. Sort of. So I have switched from the magical realism of Marquez to a contemporary memoir by Dave Eggers. In A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, he shares how he raised his 8-year-old brother at age 21, after both their parents died of cancer.

Word of warning: This book will make you appear bi-polar. Laughing one minute? Crying the next? Oh yes, that was me, and all in the first chapter.

Eggers, you see, is hilarious, in a disturbingly sad sense. The truthfulness of a young man's self-consciousness, even in the grittiest most grueling hardships, results in some shockingly funny inner dialogue. It's truly laugh-out-loud stuff, that will truly make you laugh out loud, annoying the ... out of anyone else in the room, say, for instance, your husband, as he struggles to complete his final semester of graduate school.

Another word of warning for conservative readers out there: Anyone opposed to strong language will be opposed to this book.


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