Dave Eggers

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For the film score composer, see Dave Eggar.
Dave Eggers
Dave Eggers by David Shankbone.jpg
Eggers at the 2007 Brooklyn Book Festival
Born (1970-03-12) March 12, 1970 (age 47)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Occupation Writer, editor, publisher, philanthropist
Nationality American
Period 1993–present
Literary movement Postmodern literature, post-postmodern, new sincerity
Notable works A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000), What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng (2006), Zeitoun (2009), A Hologram for the King (2012), The Circle (2013)
Notable awards Heinz Award, Independent Publisher Book Award, Prix Médicis, Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Dave Eggers (born March 12, 1970) is an American writer, editor, and publisher. He is known for the best-selling memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and for his subsequent work as a novelist and screenwriter. He is also the founder of McSweeney's, the co-founder of the literacy project 826 Valencia, and the founder of ScholarMatch, a program that matches donors with students needing funds for college tuition. His writing has appeared in several magazines. His works have received a significant amount of critical acclaim.


Eggers was born in Boston, Massachusetts, one of four siblings. His father was John K. Eggers (1936–1991), an attorney. His mother, Heidi McSweeney Eggers (1940–1992), was a school teacher. When Eggers was still a child, the family moved to the upscale suburb of Lake Forest, near Chicago, where he attended high school and was a classmate of actor Vince Vaughn. Eggers attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, intending to get a degree in journalism,[1] but his studies were interrupted by the deaths of both of his parents in 1991–1992—his father in 1991 from brain and lung cancer, and his mother in January 1992 from stomach cancer. Both were in their 50s.

These events were chronicled in his first book, the 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 and Beth, were unable to commit to care for Toph; his older brother had a full-time job and his sister was enrolled in law school. As a result, Dave Eggers took the responsibility. He 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 lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is married to Vendela Vida, also a writer.[2] The couple has two children.[3]

Eggers's elder brother, Bill, is a researcher who has worked for several conservative think tanks, doing research promoting privatization.[4] Eggers's sister, Beth, committed suicide in November 2001.[5] Eggers briefly spoke about his sister's death during a 2002 fan interview for McSweeney's.[6]

He was one of three 2008 TED Prize recipients.[7] His TED Prize wish was for helping community members to personally engage with local public schools.[8][9] The same year, he was named one of "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing the World" by Utne Reader.[10]

In 2005, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters from Brown University. He delivered the baccalaureate address at the school in 2008.[11]

Literary work

Eggers worked with Sudanese refugee Valentino Achak Deng to tell a fictionalized account of Achak's life story

Eggers began writing as a Salon.com editor and founded Might magazine, while also writing a comic strip called Smarter Feller (originally Swell) for SF Weekly.[12] 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 postscript entitled, Mistakes We Knew We Were Making.[citation needed]

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 Salon.com.[13]

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".[14] 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.[15] 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, anonymous "Answer Guy", a column that continued to run after he stopped working for the publication.[16]

On November 7, 2009, he was presented with the "Courage in Media" Award by the Council on American-Islamic Relations for his book Zeitoun.[17] The story is of a Syrian immigrant, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, in New Orleans who was helping neighbors after Hurricane Katrina when he was arrested, imprisoned and suffered abuse. Zeitoun has been optioned by Jonathan Demme, who is working on a screenplay for an animated film-rendition of the work. To Demme, it "felt like the first in-depth immersion I'd ever had through literature or film into the Muslim-American family. … The moral was that they are like people of any other faith, and I hope our film, if we can get it made, will also be like that." Demme, quoted in early 2011, expressed confidence that when the script is finished, he will be able to find financing, perhaps even from a major studio.[18] "It's a wonderful, gripping story," he said, "and we can have a very, very competitive commercial picture that won't cost an enormous amount," since animation provides an alternative to expensive re-creations of the hurricane.

In the early 2010s after going six years without publishing substantive literary fiction following What is the What, Eggers began a three-year streak of back-to-back novels, each broadly concerned with pressing social and political issues facing the United States and the wider world in the twenty-first century. Eggers published his novel of the Great Recession and late 2000s financial crisis, A Hologram for the King, in July 2012. In October of that year, the novel was announced as a finalist for the National Book Award.[19] Eggers followed this the following October with 2013's The Circle, which depicts the life of a young worker at a fictional San Francisco based technology company in the near future as she faces doubts about her vocation due to the company's seemingly well-intentioned innovations revealing a more sinister underlying agenda. Completing the productive spell, a new novel concerning anxiety with America's place in the world, Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?, was published in June 2014.[20] In November 2015, Your Fathers, Where Are They... was longlisted for the 2016 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award,[21] Eggers' fifth nomination for the award following earlier nominations for The Circle, A Hologram for the King, The Wild Things, and What is the What.


Eggers founded McSweeney's, an independent publishing house, named for his mother's maiden name. The publishing house 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.[citation needed]

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, Eggers was rumored to be a possible candidate to be the new editor of The Paris Review before the Review selected Lorin Stein.

Eggers in October 2008

Visual Art Work

While at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Eggers attended art classes. After the publication of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, he focused mainly on writing, but publicly returned to visual art with a solo gallery show at Electric Works, San Francisco, in 2010, called "It Is Right to Draw Their Fur."[22] The show featured many drawings of animals often paired with phrases, sometimes out of the Bible.[23] In conjunction with that exhibition, McSweeney's published a catalog featuring 25 loose-leaf prints of the work featured in the show. In 2015 Eggers had his first solo museum exhibition at the Nevada Museum of Art called "The Insufferable Throne of God," curated by Joanne Northrup.[23] Eggers is represented by Electric Works a fine art gallery in San Francisco.

Outside of exhibitions, Eggers visual art contributions include the following:

  • Eggers provided album art for Austin rock group, Paul Banks & The Carousels' album Yelling at the Sun.
  • Eggers designed the artwork for Thrice's album Vheissu.[24]

826 National

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.[25] It has since grown into six chapters across the United States: Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Washington, D.C., and Boston, all under the auspices of the nonprofit organization 826 National.[26] 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.[27] 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.[28] In accordance with Eggers's wishes, the award money was given to 826 National and The Teacher Salary Project.[29] In April 2010, under the umbrella of 826 National, Eggers launched ScholarMatch, a nonprofit organization that connects donors with students to make college more affordable.

Musical contributions

  • 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?"[30]
  • Eggers contributed lyrics to the song, "The Ghost of Rita Gonzolo", on One Ring Zero's album As Smart as We Are (2004).

Awards and honors




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)
  • Salon.com serials: "The Unforbidden Is Compulsory Or, Optimism", "The Fishmonger Returns", and "New Hampshire Is for Lovers" (2004)
  • The Bridge Will Not Be Gray (with illustrations by Tucker Nichols) (2015)
  • Some Recollections from a Busy Life: The Forgotten Story of the Real Town of Hollister, California by T.S. Hawkins (2016) (Eggers provides the introduction to a reprint of an autobiography by his great, great grandfather originally published in 1913)

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, by David Foster Wallace (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)
  • The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2009 (editor; introduction by Marjane Satrapi) (2009)
  • The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2010 (editor; introduction by David Sedaris) (2010)
  • The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2011 (editor; introduction by Guillermo Del Toro) (2011)

Criticism and Interpretation

  • Boxall, Peter. Twenty-First-Century Fiction: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge University Press, 2013. [contains extensive discussion of What is the What]
  • D'Amore, Jonathan. American Authorship and Autobiographical Narrative: Mailer, Wideman, Eggers. American Literature Readings in the 21st Century. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. [joint study on works of Norman Mailer, John Edgar Wideman, and Eggers; contains extensive discussion of ...Staggering Genius and "Mistakes We Knew We Were Making"; also contains discussion of You Shall Know Our Velocity and What is the What]
  • den Dulk, Allard. Existentialist Engagement in Wallace, Eggers and Foer. Bloomsbury, 2014. [joint study on the works of Eggers, David Foster Wallace, and Jonathan Safran Foer; contains extensive discussion of ...Staggering Genius, You Shall Know Our Velocity and The Circle]
  • Funk, Wolfgang. The Literature of Reconstruction: American Literature in the New Millennium. Bloomsbury. 2015 [contains an extensive chapter on 'reconstructing the author' in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius]
  • Galow, Timothy W. Understanding Dave Eggers. Understanding Contemporary American Literature. University of South Carolina Press. 2014.
  • Giles, Paul. The Global Remapping of American Literature. Princeton University Press, 2011 [contains discussion of ...Staggering Genius and What is the What]
  • Grassian, Daniel. Hybrid Fictions: American Literature and Generation X. McFarland & Co Inc, 2003 [contains discussion of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius]
  • Hamilton, Caroline D. "Blank Looks: Reality TV and Memoir in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Australasian Journal of American Studies. Vol.28, No.2. (December 2009). pp.31-46
  • Hamilton, Caroline D. One Man Zeitgeist: Dave Eggers, Publishing and Publicity. Bloomsbury, 2012.
  • Holland, Mark K. Succeeding Postmodernism: Language and Humanism in Contemporary American Literature. Bloomsbury, 2013. [contains discussion of ...Staggering Genius]
  • Mosseau, Robert. "Connecting Travel Writing, Bildungsroman, and Therapeutic Culture in Dave Eggers's Literature" in Lanzendorfer, Tim [ed.] The Poetics of Genre in the Contemporary Novel. Lexington Books, 2015. [contains discussion of You Shall Know Our Velocity and A Hologram for the King]
  • Peek, Michelle. "Humanitarian Narrative and Posthumanist Critique: Dave Eggers's What is the What. Biography. 35.1 (Winter, 2012). pp.115-136.
  • Pignagnoli, Virginia. "Sincerity, Sharing, and Authorial Discourses on the Fiction/Nonfiction Distinction: The Case of Dave Eggers's You Shall Know Our Velocity" in Lanzendorfer, Tim [ed.] The Poetics of Genre in the Contemporary Novel. Lexington Books, 2015. [contains discussion of You Shall Know Our Velocity and The Circle]
  • Timmer, Nicoline. Do You Feel it To? The Post-Postmodern Syndrome in American Fiction at the Turn of the Millennium. Postmodern Studies#44. Series Eds. Theo D'haen and Hans Bertens. Rodopi, 2010. [contains extensive discussion of ...Staggering Genius]
  • Varvogli, Aliki. Travel and Dislocation in Contemporary American Fiction. Routledge Transnational Perspective on American Literature. Series Ed. Susan Castillo. Routledge, 2012. [Contains extensive discussion of What is the What and You Shall Know Our Velocity]


  1. ""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. January 23, 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-16. 
  2. ""Vendela Vida floats amid S.F. literati but keeps feet, attitude firmly planted" by Joshunda Sanders". San Francisco Chronicle. August 27, 2003. Retrieved 2007-02-22. 
  3. ""Different worlds: The many lives — novelist, social activist, literary innovator, teacher — of Dave Eggers" by Susan Larson". The Times-Picayune. February 6, 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-22. 
  4. "William D. Eggers". Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. n.d. Retrieved 2007-02-19. 
  5. Preston, John (December 29, 2009). "Dave Eggers interview: the heartbreak kid". Telegraph.co.uk (The Daily Telegraph). London: Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved September 22, 2010. 
  6. "Readers Interview Dave Eggers". McSweeney's Internet Tendency. 2002. Retrieved 2007-02-19. 
  7. "TED Blog: Announcing 2008 TED Prize Winners". 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-21. 
  8. "Talks Dave Eggers: 2008 TED Prize wish: Once Upon a School" (video). TED Conference Website. Retrieved 2008-03-19. 
  9. "TEDPrize 2008 Winner: Dave Eggers". TED Prize Website. Retrieved 2008-03-19. 
  10. Visionaries Who Are Changing the World
  11. "Dave Eggers to deliver Brown University commencement address". May 19, 2008. Retrieved December 4, 2009. 
  12. ""Growing Up in Public: David Eggers and Ann Powers" by Mark Athitakis". SF Weekly. March 8, 2000. Retrieved 2007-02-21. 
  13. "Introducing (again) Dave Eggers". Salon.com. 2004. Retrieved 2007-02-21. 
  14. "Surviving Justice: About the Editors". Voice of Witness. n.d. Archived from the original on July 16, 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-20. 
  15. "NBCC Awards Finalists". The National Book Critics Circle, bookcritics.org. n.d. Archived from the original on February 5, 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-11.  External link in |work= (help)
  16. "Making It Up as We Go Along". ESPN the Magazine. March 11, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-29. 
  17. "Announcing 'Courage in Media' Award Recipient: Author & Activist Dave Eggers". CAIR California. October 30, 2009. Retrieved November 7, 2009. 
  18. "Rohter, Larry, "Hollywood Ignores East-West Exchange"". The New York Times. March 18, 2011. Retrieved March 20, 2011. 
  19. http://www.nationalbook.org/nba2012.html#.UHWre_mlpRg
  20. "Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?". Random House. Retrieved July 10, 2014. 
  21. http://www.dublinliteraryaward.ie/nominees/your-fathers-where-are-they-and-the-prophets-do-they-live-forever/
  22. "Electric Works: Current and Past Exhibitions". sfelectricworks.com. Retrieved 2015-10-23. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Dave Eggers: Insufferable Throne of God | Nevada Museum of Art". www.nevadaart.org. Retrieved 2015-10-23. 
  24. "Vheissu (liner notes)". Island Records. 2005. 
  25. "A heartwarming work of literary altruism" San Francisco Chronicle, Accessed on 2009-04-07
  26. "826 Chapters". 826 National. n.d. Retrieved 2007-02-20. 
  27. "Revenge of the Book–Eaters". Bookeaters.org. 2006. Retrieved 2007-02-20. 
  28. The Heinz Awards, Dave Eggers profile
  29. ""We never feel any sort of ownership" by John Freeman". Guardian Unlimited. London. September 14, 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-15.  An interview to Eggers
  30. ""I'm always in danger of being dismissed as a clown" by Chris Salmon". Guardian Unlimited. London. September 21, 2006. Retrieved 2007-02-21. 
  31. "National Book Award Finalists Announced Today". Library Journal. October 10, 2012. Retrieved November 15, 2012. 
  32. "10 Best Books of 2012". The New York Times. November 30, 2012. 
  33. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/best-books/2012/fiction#book/book-16
  34. Wegen Grass: US-Autor bleibt Preisverleihung fern, Weser-Kurier, 13. April 2012
  35. http://www.spiegel.de/kultur/literatur/0,1518,827306,00.htm Günter Grass. Albatros-Literaturpreis abgesagt. Spiegel online am 13. April 2012
  36. http://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/special-events/california-book-awards
  37. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2091473/fullcredits#writers
  38. Gerhardt, Tina (December 31, 2012). "Matt Damon Exposes Fracking in Promised Land". The Progressive. 

External links

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