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Dave Eggers

Eggers at the 2007 Brooklyn Book Festival
Born March 12, 1970 (1970-03-12) (age 39)
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Occupation Writer, editor, publisher
Nationality  United States
Period 1993–present
Literary movement Postmodern literature
Notable work(s) A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Notable award(s) National Book Critics Circle Award, Heinz Award, Independent Publisher Book Award, Pulitzer Prize Finalist, Prix Médicis
Official website

Dave Eggers (born March 12, 1970) is an American writer, editor, and publisher. He is known for the best-selling novel, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and his more recent work as a screenwriter. He is also the co-founder of the literacy project, 826 Valencia.



Eggers was born in Boston, Massachusetts, one of four siblings. His father was an attorney and his mother a school teacher. When Eggers was still a child, the family moved to the upscale suburb of Lake Forest, near Chicago. He attended high school there, and was a classmate of the actor Vince Vaughn.[1]

Eggers attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, intending to get a degree in journalism,[2] but his studies were interrupted by the deaths of both of his parents in 1991, his mother from stomach cancer and his father from brain and lung cancer. These events were chronicled in his first book, the lightly 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 (William D. Eggers) and Beth, were unable to commit to the care of Toph; his older brother had a full-time job and his sister was enrolled in law school. As a result, Eggers took responsibility for raising Toph.

Eggers left the University of Illinois and moved to Berkeley, California, with his girlfriend Kirsten and his brother. They initially moved in with Eggers's 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 currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is married to Vendela Vida, also a writer.[3] In October 2005, Vida gave birth to a daughter, October Adelaide Eggers Vida. Vida and Eggers had a son in December 2008.[4]

Eggers's elder brother, Bill, is a researcher who has worked for several conservative think tanks, doing research on privatization.[5] Eggers's sister, Beth, claimed that Eggers grossly understated her role in raising Toph and made use of her journals without compensation in writing A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.[6] She later recanted her claims in a posting on her brother's own website McSweeney's Internet Tendency, referring to the incident as "a really terrible LaToya Jackson moment".[7] On March 1, 2002, the New York Post reported that Beth, then a lawyer in Modesto, California, had committed suicide.[8] Eggers briefly spoke about his sister's death during a 2002 fan interview for McSweeney's. [9]

He was one of three 2008 TED Prize recipients. [10] His TED Prize wish was for community members to personally engage with local public schools.[11][12] The same year, he was named one of "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing the World" by Utne Reader.[13] On November 7, 2009, he was presented with the "Courage in Media" Award by the Council on American-Islamic Relations for his book Zeitoun.[14]

In 2005, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters from Brown University. He delivered the baccalaureate address at the school in 2008. [15]

Literary work

Eggers began writing as a editor and founded Might magazine, while also writing a comic strip called Smarter Feller (originally Swell) for SF Weekly.[16] His 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, apologetic postscript entitled, Mistakes We Knew We Were Making.

In 2002, Eggers published his first 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[17]

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".[18] Lawyer novelist Scott Turow wrote the introduction to Surviving Justice. Eggers's 2006 novel What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng (McSweeney's) was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.[19] 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 "Answer Guy", a column that still runs (without his involvement) in the publication.[20]


Eggers founded McSweeney's, an independent publishing house. McSweeney's 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 [1], he has been rumored to be a possible candidate to be the new editor of the prestigious literary magazine The Paris Review[2].

Eggers in October 2008

826 Valencia

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. [21]. It has since grown into seven chapters across the country: Los Angeles, New York City, Seattle, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Michigan and Boston, all under the auspices of the nonprofit organization 826 National.[22] 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.[23] 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.[24] In accordance with Eggers's wishes, the award money was all given to 826 National.[25]

Musical contributions

  • Eggers designed the artwork for Thrice's album Vheissu.[26]
  • 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?"[27]
  • Eggers contributed lyrics to the song, "The Ghost of Rita Gonzolo", on One Ring Zero's album As Smart as We Are (2004).




  • 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)

Humor books

  • 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)



  • Jokes Told in Heaven About Babies (as Lucy Thomas) (2003)
  • serials: "The Unforbidden Is Compulsory Or, Optimism", "The Fishmonger Returns", and "New Hampshire Is for Lovers" (2004)

As editor or contributor (non-McSweeney's publications)

  • Speaking with the Angel: Original Stories, edited by Nick Hornby (contributor) (2000)
  • When Penguins Attack, by Tom Tomorrow (introduction) (2000)
  • The Onion Ad Nauseam: The Complete News Archives, Volume 13 (introduction) (2002)
  • The O. Henry Prize Stories 2002 (selected by, with Joyce Carol Oates and Colson Whitehead) (2002)
  • The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2002 (editor, with Michael Cart) (2002)
  • The Tenants of Moonbloom, by Edward Lewis Wallant (reissue of Wallant's 1963 novel with introduction) (2003)
  • The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2003 (editor; introduction by Zadie Smith) (2003)
  • Happy Baby by Stephen Elliott (editor; designed by McSweeney's and published and distributed by MacAdam/Cage) (2004)
  • The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2004 (editor; introduction by Viggo Mortensen) (2004)
  • The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005 (editor; introduction by Beck) (2005)
  • Penguin Classics edition of Forty Stories by Donald Barthelme (introduction) (2005)
  • The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup, edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey (contributor) (2006)
  • The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006 (editor; introduction by Matt Groening) (2006)
  • Infinite Jest (introduction to 10th anniversary edition) (2006)
  • John Currin (contributor; additional text by John Currin, Norman Bryson, and Alison Gingeras) (2006)
  • The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007 (editor; introduction by Sufjan Stevens) (2007)
  • The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2008 (editor; introduction by Judy Blume) (2008)
  • FOUND: Requiem for a Paper Bag (essay contributor) (2009)


  1. ^ ""FoE! Log #2:Dave Eggers, Vince Vaughn and Me"". My Manifesto, by Gary Baum. 2000-03-06. Retrieved 2007-02-21. 
  2. ^ ""Four prize-winning authors taking part in U. of I. series that begins Feb. 8" by Andrea Lynn". News Bureau, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 2007-01-23. Retrieved 2007-02-16. 
  3. ^ ""Vendela Vida floats amid S.F. literati but keeps feet, attitude firmly planted" by Joshunda Sanders". San Francisco Chronicle. 2003-08-27. Retrieved 2007-02-22. 
  4. ^ ""Different worlds: The many lives — novelist, social activist, literary innovator, teacher — of Dave Eggers" by Susan Larson". The Times-Picayune. 2007-02-06. Retrieved 2007-02-22. 
  5. ^ "William D. Eggers". Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. undated. Retrieved 2007-02-19. 
  6. ^ ""FoE! Log #6: The Beth Eggers Exclusive (And Some Other Stuff)"". My Manifesto, by Gary Baum. April 17, 2000. Retrieved 2007-02-19. 
  7. ^ ""FoE! Log #13: A Very Special Edition of The FoE! Log"". My Manifesto, by Gary Baum. July 31, 2000. Retrieved 2007-11-16.  Note: The original page to which this source refers has since been removed from McSweeney's Internet Tendency.
  8. ^ ""More Heartbreak for Author" by Richard Johnson, with Paula Froelich and Chris Wilson". (New York Post online edition) at .iWon. February 28, 2002. Retrieved 2008-04-02.  (Google cache)
  9. ^ ""Readers Interview Dave Eggers"". McSweeney's Internet Tendency. 2002. Retrieved 2007-02-19. 
  10. ^ ""TED Blog: Announcing 2008 TED Prize Winners"". 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-21. 
  11. ^ "Talks Dave Eggers: 2008 TED Prize wish: Once Upon a School" (video). TED Conference Website. Retrieved 2008-03-19. 
  12. ^ "TEDPrize 2008 Winner: Dave Eggers". TED Prize Website. Retrieved 2008-03-19. 
  13. ^ Visionaries Who Are Changing the World
  14. ^ "Announcing ‘Courage in Media’ Award Recipient: Author & Activist Dave Eggers". CAIR California. October 30, 2009. Retrieved November 7, 2009. 
  15. ^ "Dave Eggers to speak at Baccalaureate". May 19, 2008. Retrieved December 4, 2009. 
  16. ^ ""Growing Up in Public: David Eggers and Ann Powers" by Mark Athitakis". SF Weekly. 2000-03-08. Retrieved 2007-02-21. 
  17. ^ ""Introducing (again) Dave Eggers"". 2004. Retrieved 2007-02-21. 
  18. ^ ""Surviving Justice: About the Editors"". Voice of Witness. undated. Retrieved 2007-02-20. 
  19. ^ ""NBCC Awards Finalists"". The National Book Critics Circle, undated. Retrieved 2007-03-11. 
  20. ^ ""Making It Up as We Go Along"". ESPN the Magazine. March 11, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-29. 
  21. ^ "A heartwarming work of literary altruism" San Francisco Chronicle, Accessed on 2009-04-07
  22. ^ ""826 Chapters"". 826 National. undated. Retrieved 2007-02-20. 
  23. ^ ""Revenge of the Book–Eaters"". 2006. Retrieved 2007-02-20. 
  24. ^ The Heinz Awards, Dave Eggers profile
  25. ^ ""We never feel any sort of ownership" by John Freeman". Guardian Unlimited. September 14, 2007.,,2169276,00.html. Retrieved 2007-09-15.  An interview to Eggers
  26. ^ Vheissu (liner notes), Island Records, 2005. 
  27. ^ ""I'm always in danger of being dismissed as a clown" by Chris Salmon". Guardian Unlimited. 2006-09-21.,,1877277,00.html. Retrieved 2007-02-21. 

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Dave Eggers (born 1970-03-12) is an American writer, editor and publisher.



A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius (2000)

  • And we will be ready, at the end of every day will be ready, will not say no to anything, will try to stay awake while everyone is sleeping, will not sleep, will make the shoes with the elves, will breathe deeply all the time, breathe in all the air full of glass and nails and blood, will breathe it and drink it, so rich, so when it comes we will not be angry, will be content, tired enough to go, gratefully, will shake hands with everyone, bye, bye, and then pack a bag, some snacks, and go to the volcano.
  • First of all:
    I am tired.
    I am true of heart!

    And also:
    You are tired.
    You are true of heart!
  • Matter of fact, the first three or four chapters are all some of you might want to bother with. That gets you to page 123 or so, which is a nice length, a nice novella sort of length.
  • ‘Listen John—’
    ‘Who’s John?’
    ‘You’re John.’
    ‘I’m John?’
    ‘Yeah, I changed your name.’
  • I am sorry Chris is late this morning. I could make something up about an appointment or a sickness, but the fact is that we woke up late. Go figure
    Brother of Toph.
  • Ooh, look at me, I’m Dave, I’m writing a book! With all my thoughts in it. La la la!
  • . . . I’ll raise my arms and give you my chest and throat and wait, and I’ve been so old for so long for you, for you, I want it fast and right through me— Oh do it, do it you motherfuckers do it you fuckers finally, finally, finally.
  • We’re best at the long high throws. Like when you take four or five steps and rip it— It’s almost like a shotput approach, the steps, four or five quick, one over the other, kind of sideways-like—and then you slash away with that fucker, it’s such a violent act, throwing that white thing, you’re first cradling it to your breast and then you whip that fucker as hard as you can while keeping it level, keeping it straight, but otherwise with everything you can send with it you whip that fucker like it had blades on it and you wanted it to cut straight through the paperblue sky like a screen, rip through it and have it be blood and back space beyond.
  • We cannot fathom why people would stand across the street, easily a hundred feet away, when they could be so close, near us.
    ‘Suckers.’ I tell Toph, thumbing toward those watching from so far away. It is important, I feel, that the boy knows what suckers look like.”
  • Toph does not know the words, and I know few of the words, but you cannot fucking stop us from singing

You Shall Know Our Velocity! (2002)

  • — Mr. Churchill you were given a mission.
    — Yes
    — I want to have been given your mission. I want your place in world events, the centrality of it. You were born in the cradle of a catapult!
    — You are wrong. I found my mission.
    — I disagree.
    — If you must.
    — Tell me: where is my mission? Where are my bunkers and trenches, my goddamn Gallipoli?
  • Hand took a breath and opened his palms, as if accepting the gift of rain. "YOU SHALL KNOW OUR VELOCITY!" he bellowed into the cold exhausted city.
  • There are people who meet strangers and people, like me, who know only those they’ve known from birth
  • I was feeling everything too much. Everything was pulling at my eyes.
  • We’d have a motherfucking shitload of dogs! Horses. Peacocks. Oh to live among peacocks. I’d seen them once in person and they defied so many laws of color and gravity that they had to be made geniuses waiting to take over everything.
  • I was a looker someone who looked over at every car at every traffic light, hoping something would happen, and almost never finding anyone looking back- always everyone looking forward, and every time I felt stupid. Why should people look over at you? Why would they care?
  • But that in any city, in any cluster of people, there a few people who are awake at this hour, who are both awake and dancing, and it’s here that we need to be. That if we are living as we were this week, that we had to be awake with the people who are still dancing.
  • We sleep when we fall. We only sleep when we can’t move anymore. That’s juvenile. But it means everything. It’s the illusion of progress. Staying awake isn’t progress. The illusion is enough.
  • When we pass by another person without telling them we love them it’s cruel and wrong and we all know this.
  • What did we want? We want the world smaller and bigger and just the same but advancing. We don’t know what we want.
  • What are we allowed to do when we’re looking for things we’re required to do?

What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng (2006)

  • Humans are divided between those who can still look through the eyes of youth and those who cannot. Though it causes me frequent pain, I find it very easy to place myself in the shoes of almost any boy, and can conjure my own youth with an ease that is troublesome.
    • Ch. 10, p. 110
  • I cannot count the times I have cursed our lack of urgency. If I ever love again, I will not wait to love as best as I can. We thought we were young and that there would be time to love well sometime in the future. This is a terrible way to think. It is no way to live, to wait to love.
    • Ch. 21, pp. 317-318
  • I speak to these people, and I speak to you because I cannot help it. It gives me strength, almost unbelievable strength, to know that you are there. I covet your eyes, your ears, the collapsible space between us. How blessed are we to have each other? I am alive and you are alive so we must fill the air with our words. I will fill today, tomorrow, every day until I am taken back to God. I will tell stories to people who will listen and to people who don’t want to listen, to people who seek me out and to those who run. All the while I will know that you are there. How can I pretend that you do not exist? It would be almost as impossible as you pretending that I do not exist.
    • Ch. 26, pp. 474-475
  • The pain is not great. But the symbolism is disagreeable.
    • Ch. 5, pp. 50

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