The Horror of Dave Eggers

If I could have dinner with one author, it would be Dave Eggers. His writing style is my muse. His merger of artistic quality with social justice inspires me. I want to be like Dave Eggers–except scary.

In A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, he writes:

“[M]y mother read a horror novel every night. She had read every one in the library. When birthdays and Christmas would come, I would consider buying her a new one, the latest Dean R. Koontz or Stephen King or whatever, but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to encourage her. I couldn’t touch my father’s cigarettes, couldn’t look at the Pall Mall cartons in the pantry. I was the sort of child who couldn’t even watch commercials for horror movies – the ad for Magic, the movie where marionette kills people. sent me into a six-month nightmare frenzy. So I couldn’t look at her books, would turn them over so their covers wouldn’t show, the raised lettering and splotches of blood – especially the V.C. Andrews oeuvre, those turgid pictures of those terrible kids, standing so still, all lit in blue.”

This quote, paired with all of his work that I’ve read led me to believe he had no interest in horror. This week, I stumbled upon his short story, “The Horror.” This piece raises some great questions about horror:

  • Does horror come with a certain set of expectations?
  • How subjective can we be when determining if a text is horror?
  • Does horror shy away from tackling the authentically horrifying in favor of “safer” caricatures?
  • As horror authors, how free are we to expand the genre’s boundaries?

While it may seem odd for Eggers to lead this conversation, check out his 2013 short story adapted into a short film:

Scary, huh? So let’s continue the conversation. What are your responses to the above questions?


  • Kathy Palm
    March 29, 2015

    Everyone has different expectations when it comes to horror. Some want blood and gore, others want to delve into the shadows, and still others want to see what exists in the dark of people’s minds. We should always search for new ways to tackle the genre. And possibly the scariest thing of all is what we imagine, never seeing anything, yet afraid that something is there. Like the story. The unseen is full of inspiration for terror.

  • Jennifer Brinkmeyer
    March 29, 2015

    I agree. It seems outsiders often reduce the genre to only gore, and while gore can be fun, it limits our creative freedom if it’s a “must” for the genre.

  • Kissed by Ink
    March 30, 2015

    I was introduced to Dave Eggers’ work by my brother-in-law, while visiting in Minneapolis. He and my sister took me for a tour of the wonderful independent book stores in both Minneapolis and St. Paul. Never did I imagine that he’s write anything close to horror. Thanks for sharing this story and short with us. I love a good slasher movie, but when writing I always lean toward the more psychological stuff–it’s scarier.

  • The Rules: Bleed Like You Mean It | YA Asylum
    April 2, 2015

    […] post was in part inspired by this one on Master of the Genre, T. E. D. Klein, and this one over here by the wonderful Jennifer Brinkmeyer of the Midnight Society (a great horror blog run by some […]

  • Jennifer Brinkmeyer
    April 2, 2015

    Yes! This film is so much fun. The campfire story is not dead!

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