October 25, 2009

I’m midway through Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and even though the two have very little to do with each other in style or subject matter, it reminds me of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes in an odd way (I haven’t read McCourt’s other memoirs).

I read Angela’s Ashes in high school, a little while before the movie came out. And I thought it was a beautiful, sad, funny book. Like most people who enjoyed it, I was looking forward to the movie. But I found that, because it lacked the charm and wit of the immediate narrative voice, the really tragic parts of the book became overwhelming. In other words, when it wasn’t McCourt telling us, the kind of life shown in the movie was just shitty without also being familiar and in some ways comforting.

And I think this is what Eggers’ book, turned into a movie, would be like. That it’s only the narrative voice which is keeping the story from being way too depressing (and I like me a depressing story…Steinbeck and Conrad are absolute all time favourites). Which is odd, because I’m also finding the narrator sort of annoying, as my friend suggested I might. I had just gotten to the point that I thought it was actually Eggers’ style I didn’t like when a passage reminded me of the space between the narrator and author, and I think now / again that I’m really enjoying it.

In a sad way, of course.