Dave Eggers

Dave Eggers Headshot


Birth Date: March 12, 1970

Age: 54 years old

Birth Place: Boston, Massachusetts

A medium-shifting polymath, Dave Eggers is widely known for his fiction and non-fiction, but he is or has been, among other things, a screenwriter, editor, publisher, and educator. During his college years, Eggers' life was upended when his parents both died within months of each other, leaving him to be the main caregiver for his younger brother while kick-starting his writing career.

After founding the influential publishing house McSweeney's, he turned his unusual circumstances into the basis of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000), which made him a literary star. Although his subsequent writing endeavors, usually offbeat to varying degrees, weren't met with the same rapturous acclaim, he kept busy with numerous McSweeney's projects and setting up 826 Valencia, a youth-focused nonprofit education organization. He came back into the spotlight with 2009's Zeitoun, a non-fiction book involving Hurricane Katrina.

The same year, his earliest screenwriting efforts found their way to the screen in the form of the indie dramedy "Away We Go" and "Where the Wild Things Are," Spike Jonze's pensive and moody riff on the illustrated classic. Continuing to reliably offer up new works, Eggers seemed intent on undercutting the notion of a straightforward literary career.

Born in Boston and mostly raised in the Lake Forest suburb of Chicago, Eggers had an affluent upbringing as the son of a lawyer and a teacher. He developed an interest in writing during his youth and attended college to study journalism, but his life took a dramatic series of turns when his father and mother both died of cancer in quick succession.

While Eggers transitioned to adulthood, his younger brother, Toph, was still in elementary school, and soon it became clear that he needed to become his sibling's guardian. After relocating to San Francisco, Eggers adjusted to his default parent role and began establishing himself as a writer and editor.

During the early 1990s, he co-founded the humor-tinged alternative magazine Might, and later created the unconventional literary journal Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, which started in 1998 and expanded into the publishing company simply known as McSweeney's. While working on all things McSweeney-like, Eggers recounted his years raising his brother in the quirky semi-fictional book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which became a sensation upon its publication in 2000.

Two years later, Eggers began running 826 Valencia, a student-oriented writing lab with a storefront that peddled pirate-related merchandise. He also unveiled his eagerly anticipated follow-up to A Heartbreaking Work, the unabashedly fictional novel, You Shall Know Our Velocity (2002), which was generally met with an underwhelming response.

In 2003, Eggers indulged in the pop-culture-loving side of his aesthetic and created the magazine The Believer, with his wife, Vendela Vida, on board as an editor, and he subsequently published the short-story collection How We Are Hungry (2004).

Eggers had another particularly busy year in 2006, with the publication of his fictional What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, a novel inspired and informed by the real-life survivor of a Sudanese massacre, though not an actual autobiography. With Eggers writing in the narrative voice of Deng, the book featured more unguarded emotions than other works by the author, and this mostly found favor with both critics and readers, some of whom had accused him of being too glib in the past.

Eggers also organized a tour to help support his growing 826 National nonprofit, with various renowned performers from the rock and comedy realms hopping on board, including David Byrne, formerly of the Talking Heads, and "Daily Show" (Comedy Central, 1996- ) hero Jon Stewart. Eggers also reinforced his ties to music when his voice turned up on "The Horrible Fanfare/Landslide/Exoskeleton," the final track of the Beck album "The Information" (2006), where he had a discussion with filmmaker Spike Jonze about the elements of a truly great record.

Eggers and Jonze weren't paired just by coincidence - they were working on the script for the long-in-development big-screen adaptation of Maurice Sendak's 1963 kid-approved masterpiece Where the Wild Things Are. However, before that saw the light of day, Eggers and his spouse wrote the introspective road-trip film "Away We Go" (2009) which was directed by esteemed helmer Sam Mendes and featured John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph in the lead roles.

Boasting a supporting cast of indie regulars such as Maggie Gyllenhaal and Chris Messina, the movie met with mixed reviews, but appealed to many in its target demographic of young parents. That fall, "Where the Wild Things Are" finally arrived in theaters, offering up an unexpectedly subdued live-action tale enhanced with subtle CGI work. Anchored by the sensitive performance of newcomer Max Records, the film featured compelling voice work by a slew of notable actors, including James Gandolfini, Lauren Ambrose, Forest Whitaker, and Catherine O'Hara.

Though its melancholy tone led to a mixed reception, it won a fair amount of admiration, and Eggers further filled out the story with his tie-in novelization, The Wild Things (2009). As if not to let his cinematic work steal the show, Eggers also released the nonfiction book Zeitoun, about a Syrian immigrant who helped to rescue people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It marked another success for Eggers, with many hailing it as one of his finest efforts.

(Unfortunately, the tale was later tainted by the actions of its real-life protagonist, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, who was arrested in 2012 for crimes that involving targeting his ex-wife.)

Moving on to different projects, Eggers crafted the story that proved to be the basis for Gus Van Sant's earnest fracking drama "Promised Land" (2012), with actors Matt Damon and John Krasinski writing the script from his narrative foundation. Meanwhile, Eggers' next novel, A Hologram for the King (2012), followed the exploits of a troubled American businessman who travels to Saudi Arabia to pitch an ambitious project to the country's excess-loving king. While these endeavors were underway, Eggers also managed to further expand 826 National, with branches in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston, among other cities, proving that his plan to increase the visibility of creative writing across the country had been firmly embraced.


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