The Opposite of Nihilism

Dave Eggers, on the experience of suddenly losing both of his parents to cancer when he was twenty-one:

Dave Eggers "On the one hand you are so completely bewildered that something so surreal and incomprehensible could happen. At the same time, suddenly the limitations or hesitations that you might have imposed on yourself fall away. There's a weird, optimistic recklessness that could easily be construed as nihilism but is really the opposite. You see that there is a beginning and an end and that you have only a certain amount of time to act. And you want to get started."

He dropped out of college to care for his eight-year-old brother and started his own magazine and then the literary quarterly McSweeney's. At the same time, he was working on his best selling memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. He also founded a nonprofit writing and tutoring workshop, 826 Valencia, aimed at helping 8-18 year olds "with their writing skills, in the realm of creative writing, expository writing, or English as a second language." There are currently six chapters of the project across the country, "supported by a large volunteer network, which includes authors, journalists, poets, teachers, and documentary filmmakers."