February 28, 2000 12:00 PM

by Dave Eggers

Book of the Week

Like the title of his memoir, 29-year-old Dave Eggers can sound a bit too ironic. But beneath his smirk lies a heartrending tale: When Eggers is a senior in college, both his parents die of cancer. Suddenly responsible for his 8-year-old brother, the aspiring writer sets off for Berkeley, where he juggles parental responsibilities with his own appetites for fame and romance. Enraged and energized by the tragedy in his life, Eggers starts an underground zine and schemes to get on MTV’s The Real World. Through it all, he manipulates people with gleeful abandon. “I am allowed,” he declares. “I am owed.”

Though Eggers’s bag of tricks—he provides his own guide to the book’s metaphors—can seem a tad too self-conscious, he can also be scathingly perceptive and hysterically funny. By the time he returns to Chicago to confront his troubled past, Eggers takes off his clown mask and reveals a true, and truly broken, heart. (Simon & Schuster, $23)

Bottom Line: Almost lives up to the title

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