Tuesday, June 06, 2006
A recent Harper's article turned me on to the work of Deborah Eisenberg; I'd somehow never heard of her. These are fantastic stories, featuring interesting heroines who remain a bit lost, and who never quite catch the gist of what happens around them. Since I often find the world entirely inexplicable and my place in it unsure, I inhaled this collection in a matter of hours. In Days a woman quits smoking, then finds herself merely substituting other addictions (to swimming and running)--her local Y features a carnival of freaks like a line of medieval penitents. In Under the 82nd Airborne a failed mother visits her daughter in of all places Tegucigalpa during the CIA shenanigans of the '80s; somehow coups, photo-op air-drops, and non-existent invasions involving actual battles are no less nonsensical than the warring of an estranged mother and daughter. In "A Lesson in Travelling Light" a woman in a terribly vague romantic relationship moves cross-country with her lover. As they stay with his friends all over the place, she realizes she has nothing, not even a self, and begins to grow restless without any tools to achieve self-aggrandizement.
Eisenberg writes effortlessly--as well as anyone in the form. Her stories are as masterful as those of Cheever, Auchincloss, Scott Fiztgerald, or Joan Didion, and feature a quirkiness reminiscent of Ann Beattie or Bobbie Ann Mason. Excellent stuff.