How Dave Eggers makes it matter
Many have critiqued the advent of the ‘rockstar’ author.
The cult of the author foregrounds the personality of the writer, which can be dangerous in a field made up largely of creators with a preference for using their writing as their voice.
But Eggers has shown how the cult of the author can be used in powerful ways to do awesome work in the community. He has set the standard for authors to use their fame and their community connections to do the very thing they often dedicate their lives and livelihoods to – giving voice to those who are often silenced.
Time magazine said of Eggers that:
“Many writers, having written a first best-seller, might see it as a nice way to start a career. He started a movement instead.”
There are probably few other writers who have managed to leverage from their fame as an author – in terms of social impact – the way Eggers has.
His memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, is the story of how at the age of 21 he raised his young brother after both their parents died. It was nominated for a Pulitzer.
“ We see the beauty within and cannot say no. ”
Since his memoir, Eggers has published several novels, many of which are preoccupied with social issues.
He is the founder of the publishing house, McSweeney’s, which publishes a quarterly literary journal, Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, and a monthly journal, The Believer.
In 2002, Eggers co-founded an organisation called 826 Valencia, which is nothing less than the work of a well-networked visionary.
Recognising that there was a community of available and skilled writers in the San Francisco Bay area where he lived, he set up a shop-front drop-in tutoring centre where kids could get one-on-one writing tutelage for free.
The centre is part of the headquarters for McSweeney’s, so editors and writers work seamlessly with interns and students in a unified non-hierarchical writing space.
The centre has produced several edited publications, many in collaboration with kids attending the workshops, and all published by McSweeney’s.
And best thing is that the centre is being replicated in cities outside of San Francisco. It’s also germinated creative writing spaces within schools.
Writing is often regarded as a solitary career, more passive than active and prone to produce large bouts of withdrawal and melancholy.
Eggers’ example shows a brilliant artist at the centre of his community and society, actively using his words to resonate further than the pages of his books, to create change in the lives of people in his community and beyond.