three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
22-May-June-2006
user_rating: 
0

Stories

A-TwilightOfTheSuperheroesFar from superheroes, the characters in these six stories experience the deferred dreams of antiheroes. In the title story, a group of young New Yorkers revels in a luxurious new apartment—until it provides a perfect front-row seat to the violent events of 9/11. In "Some Other, Better Otto," a brilliant but mentally ill woman deeply affects her neurotic brother. A divorced woman vacationing in Italy hopes for a romantic night with a charming man in "Like It or Not," but things take a different turn. And in "Window," a woman unwittingly becomes a cradle robber. In each story, characters form, break, and renew connections, all the while trying to maintain their sanity amid life’s precarious circumstances.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 240 pages. $23. ISBN: 0374299412

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"‘Window’ calls to mind Joyce Carol Oates’s classic ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?,’ which set the standard for the perilous seduction story. … Her stories possess all the steely beauty of a knife wrapped in velvet." Gail Caldwell

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Using her playwright’s ear for dialogue and a journalistic eye for the askew detail, Ms. Eisenberg gives us … a visceral sense of these characters’ daily routines, the worlds they inhabit and the families they rebel against or allow to define them. … Instead of forcing her characters’ stories into neat, arbitrary, preordained shapes, she 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

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"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. … [I]t’s the clash between the kids’ and the grown-ups’ sensibilities—cynicism and hope, world-weariness and naiveté—that gives this collection its bite and ballast." Lisa Zeidner

Christian Science Monitor 3.5 of 5 Stars
"There is one clunker in the bunch: ‘Like It or Not,’ the only story to abandon an American setting. … ‘Like It or Not’ aside, in just a handful of tales Eisenberg offers enough insight and intelligent observation to amply justify her reputation as the American Alice Munro." Yvonne Zipp

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Eisenberg, with her wide embrace of metaphor and keen sense of the eternal—the endlessly renewing cycle of human puttering—understands that behind every unexceptional face are notions and visions no one else has ever known. … Still, even her less successful stories have enough specific, emotional language to settle eerily in the mind." Judith Lewis

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 3 of 5 Stars
"[W]hen Eisenberg veers away from the secret flashes and mysterious motivations that the short story captures so delicately and moves toward the socio-political generality of the novel, she lapses into generalities. … She succeeds much more often than she fails because she brilliantly exploits what the form does best." Charles E. May

Critical Summary

Critics call Deborah Eisenberg a master of the short story, and Twilight, her seventh collection, reaffirms that reputation. With insight and intelligence, Eisenberg delves deep inside the daily lives of "outsiders" wandering through life. All stories didn’t touch all critics equally; some described the title story as one of the best pieces of fiction to capture the dislocation of 9/11, while others called it hackneyed. Other tales struck critics as either too political or unbelievable. Only "Some Other, Better Otto" met with universal acclaim. But in each story Eisenberg creates "stunning inner monologues" (Los Angeles Times) that reveal the disjunction between perception and reality—perhaps life’s greatest truth.