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Twilight of the Superheroes: Storiesby Deborah Eisenberg
The problem with slice-of-life fiction is that so many of the slices seem cut from the same pie: quiet struggles, recognizable types, familiar emotions. While these six meaty stories slice life, they're serving a different meal — every character here is so unique that, while you'll recognize yourself in them, you'll spend every page learning who they are. I guarantee that these are not stories you already know.
"Eisenberg's fourth book of new work, Twilight of the Superheroes, seems to have been the longest in the making (nine years have passed since the publication of All Around Atlantis). The six stories here feel especially new, perhaps because they didn't appear in large-circulation magazines (what's up over there at The New Yorker?). They are her most ambitious and beautiful works to date. Can it be true that with talent, effort, the ability to keep at it, and a quite short haircut one eventually becomes great? It has worked for Deborah Eisenberg." Mona Simpson, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
Synopses & Reviews
Deborah Eisenberg is nearly unmatched in her mastery of the short-story form. Now, in her newest collection, she demonstrates once again her virtuosic abilities in precisely distilled, perfectly shaped studies of human connection and disconnection.
From a group of friends whose luck in acquiring a luxurious Manhattan sublet turns to disaster as their balcony becomes a front-row seat to the catastrophe of 9/11; to the Roman holiday of a schoolteacher running away from the news of her ex-husband's life-threatening illness, and her unlikely guide, a titled art scout in desperate revolt against his circumstances and aging; to the too painful love of a brother for his schizophrenic sister, whose tragic life embitters him to the very idea of family, Eisenberg evokes "intense, abundant human lives" in which "everything that happens is out there waiting for you to come to it."
"Short-story master Eisenberg delivers, with signature intelligence and humor, six elegant, soulful new tales in her fifth book of stories. In a nuanced and compassionate family portrait, 'Some Other, Better Otto,' complex expressions of love and despair circle around a high-strung brother and his prodigiously talented, mentally ill sister. Several other stories also portray families pulling simultaneously apart while cleaving together, but each character and each motive is unique in Eisenberg's hands. The extraordinary, near?novella-length 'Window' follows a young, naïve woman into a marginal, backwoods life with a secretive and dictatorial man who has business in arms dealing and a toddler son he's left in her care. The title piece is set in Manhattan around the events of 9/11 and focuses on the post-collegiate ennui of a group of 20-something friends facing an uncertain future. The author is at the top of her form delving into the varied but devastating truth that, even after an apocalypse, people still have to lie in the beds they've made, unable to sleep. A terrific addition to the oeuvre of one of America's finest and most deeply empathetic short story writers." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Eisenberg's seventh collection of stories...confirms her talent for fiction that, like Chekhov's, insinuates you right into the characters' gnarled hearts, by methods so subtle and slippery that you're not sure where you are or how you got there." Lisa Zeidner, The Washington Post
"Instead of forcing her characters' stories into neat, arbitrary, preordained shapes, [Ms. Eisenberg] allows them to grow organically into oddly shaped, asymmetrical narratives — narratives that possess all the surprising twists and dismaying turns of real life." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Complex relationships and troubling histories are skillfully telescoped in Eisenberg's new collection of six urbane, probing stories....Not quite equal to Eisenberg's All Around Atlantis, but she's still the closest thing there is to an American Alice Munro." Kirkus Reviews
"Its half-dozen long stories put [Eisenberg] light-years ahead of most story writers....These are special stories, with their new effects, their modulations of colors and light — you have to listen carefully, but when you do, they sound like ethereal chamber music." San Francisco Chronicle
"[O]ffers commanding proof that in the right hands, the short story can be a legitimate art form, not just a test run for writers warming up to write a novel....
"In her best stories, Deborah Eisenberg plunges without preamble into the hyperactive inner world of talky, middle-aged Americans....Like others who have tackled 9/11, Eisenberg hasn't figured out how to translate the enormous event into human-scale fiction. (Grade: B)" Entertainment Weekly
"Eisenberg is indeed a master of the short story. She succeeds much more often than she fails because she brilliantly exploits what the form does best." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Deborah Eisenberg is nearly unmatched in her mastery of the short-story form. Now, in her newest collection, she demonstrates once again her virtuosic abilities in precisely distilled, perfectly shaped studies of human connection and disconnection. From a group of friends whose luck in acquiring a luxurious Manhattan sublet turns to disaster as their balcony becomes a front-row seat to the catastrophe of 9/11, to the too painful love of a brother for his schizophrenic sister, Eisenberg brilliantly "illustrates the lives of people rubbed raw by what the fates have sent them" (Vanity Fair).
A PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
An Atlantic Monthly Book of the Year
A Boston Globe Best Book of the Year
In her newest collection, Deborah Eisenberg demonstrates her abilities in precisely distilled studies of an American reality that has become increasingly chaotic, brutal, and out of control, both personally and politically. From a group of variously ambitious friends delighted to find a luxurious sublet just across from the World Trade Center in the year 2000; to a family whose tranquility is strangely poisoned by its years spent in poor foreign lands; to the too-painful love of a brother for his schizophrenic sister, whose life embitters him to the very idea of family, Eisenberg widens her range to focus her eye on a terrifying contemporary world in which "everything that happens is out there waiting for you to come to it."
About the Author
Deborah Eisenberg is the author of four previous collections of stories. The recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award, a Lannan Foundation Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Rea Award for the Short Story, she lives in New York City.
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