Dave Eggers: Genius, Philanthropist and All-Around Great Guy
What can't he do?
Dave Eggers is brilliant. I wish I was half as brilliant as he is. I'd settle for somewhere between a quarter and a third. When I read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius I bothered everyone I knew to buy it and read it. I'd lost too many lent books over the years--no more lending! Plus I wanted Eggers to get rich and famous.
I was in a somewhat similar situation as his, having just lost a parent to cancer and the other one with one foot in the grave and his hands holding a whiskey and a Marlboro. But that wasn't the real reason it spoke to me. I was goldarn lucky not to have an 8-year-old to take care of; I'd've probably snuck out of the house leaving him 500 bucks and a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, with a note saying "Good luck kid, and thanks for all the fish!"
His sister Beth angrily wrote that she had had a major influence in raising Topher and that David has used her journals to add to the book. She later recanted. In 2001, she committed suicide. Rumors appeared on the internet claiming it was a hoax, and alluded to Eggers being behind it in order to get publicity. That kind of sentiment is shared by a lot of people, something I have never understood, and that I chalk up to jealousy.
I re-read that book 20 times. I still think of phrases in it–so many things remind me of his descriptions. "The small tall window." "Here is an illustration of a stapler." That part when he and Toph left everything behind, moved to Cali, and are riding in the red car singing along to the radio. I can't think of the song and all my books are packed up and I'm too lazy/depressed/overwhelmed to unpack them to find out.
He opened a weird little store that sold salt in barrels, books about animal husbandry, animal teeth in little jars, molds and screws and small strange sundries that were displayed in labeled boxes and display cases with small drawers. The clerk sat on a stool with a computer at a desk that was 6 or 7 feet tall. It smelled like an old trading goods store. It was called, simply, "Store".
In 2002, he opened 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for kids in San Francisco, with a retail pirate storefront. There are now eight branches in the US. Brooklyn's is fronted by a Superhero Supply store, where super heroes and their side-kicks can pick up capes or other items they require. Through 826 National, the "parent company" of the chapters in the US, Eggers also established a scholarship fund. Oh, and he also won a TED award.
He has been involved in a host of fund-raisers, and donated his $250,000 grant to 826 National. He is also involved in promotion of awareness of wrongfully accused prisoners and ciivil rights issues here and abroad.
Eggers founded and edited McSweeney's , which is both a hilarious and offbeat website and a publishing house. He has written articles for practically every magazine out there. Maybe even "Cat Fancy" but I can't be sure. He has been involved in music, won a ton of awards, written a screenplay, co-written children's books with his younger brother (who now goes by the name Christopher) and if I list any other accomplishments, just go look for me on the ledge.
If I ever meet him, I'll be a babbling idiot, but he seems like a wickedly smart, talented and humble guy, and someone you'd like to have a Tom Collins with. If anyone out there knows him, I'll give you 5 bucks if you introduce him to me.