Thursday, January 11, 2007

"Twilight of superheroes" - Deborah Eisenberg

Deborah Eisenberg’s new book of short stories “Twilight of superheroes” is just…how can I put it? A goddam joy to read. If like me, you usually shun collections of shorts – because you get to the end and a couple of days later remember only one story, if that – rest assured that the six you’ll find here are all memorable. Eisenberg is a believable narrator whether she embodies a gay forty something, a slacker youth, a housewife or a battered teen bride. And boy does she love words! You can just feel that Eisenberg loves the English language like… like some tailors must love cloth, or some hairdresser’s hair. You feel that she takes you for a dip in frothy, warm bubble bath made of words. Now normally I don’t like it when authors use stylistic devices that call attention to them, and take it away from the story, but when someone uses “obstructed” and “obdurate” in the length of two lines, and it doesn’t even feel weird, or slips you expressions like “beringed claw” (it took me a while to figure out it meant icy as in Bering, Alaska) while referring to an old-woman’s hand stretched out to receive the obligatory kiss, or “spongy platitude”, you just have to smile in amazement and wonder “how does she do it? Eisenberg uses alliterations as “Irritably raking back the streaky hair, the rectangular glasses…” or “Sunlight and silence shimmered” and it sounds poetic, instead of silly as most often is the case. Even her wittiness his expressed by carefully chosen words “Jeff and I were having sort of vaguely severe money problems”.
Maybe Eisenberg’s short stories are powerful because they actually have little in the way of plot, when you get down to it. Yet they feel luxurious, thick and mysterious like a cup of something warm and wonderful, brimming with aromas and little hints of flavors you can’t quite place (see? It’s contagious). They delve into the character’s words and thoughts, and in their surroundings – Eisenberg uses imaginative metaphors and so, instead of feeling slapped by them, you feel like you’ve just read something utterly new: “The older one even had a wife, whom Corinne treated with a stricken, fluttery deference as if she were a suitcase full of weapons-grade plutonium.”
Reading “Twilight of superheroes” reminded me I don’t just like books because of the stories but also because of language and words. And when an author revels in them as Eisenberg does, the shortest of stories becomes a roller coaster, a piece of cake and a warm blanket all wrapped into one.

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