Short stories are interesting to me. Some day I want to crack open an Infinite Jest sized book and see an epigraph that reads, “This is a very long short story.” If someone reading this actually does that you need to let me know, I’ll buy ten copies of that book. My point is that there is no real structure for short stories. Sure, there are some generally accepted guidelines. For example, if you google “short stories” the definition at the top of the page is, “A short story is a brief work of literature, usually written in narrative prose.” How long is brief? What is it unusually written in? Come on Google…step up your definition game. I kind of love that there is no set in stone definition because it gives writers like Jesse Eisenberg room to play around. In Bream Gives Me Hiccups he played quite well.
Some of the short stories read more like monologues than I would have expected going into this book. I’m thinking specifically of the stories in the dating section in which one person tries to get someone else to go home with them. We see this from same scenario from various types of peoples perspective and they are rambling on to the person they’re trying to pick up. The first few stories this was funny and interesting. Particularly when the people radically changed but their reactions and various points remained the same. It did, however get slightly repetitive, even with heightened circumstances, by the last two stories.
For several stories Eisenberg used letter writing. My favorite of which was My Roommate Stole My Ramen: Letters From a Frustrated Freshman. This short story was composed of several letters from a college freshman to her high school guidance counselor discussing some of her concerns about her life in college. This was partly entertaining for me because my dad was a high school guidance counselor and while reading I would occasionally think about how he would respond to this kind of horrible girl. While she does seems like a horrible person what was more horrifying is that I recognize her behavior and language from seeing it in other people.
Another favorite of mine was the first story which is where the title of the book comes from. Bream Gives Me Hiccups: Restaurant Reviews From a Privileged Nine Year Old is exactly what it the title implies. A nine year gets dragged out to various fancy restaurants and spas by his mother who, as her divorce dictates, gets everything she does with her son paid for by her ex husband. The reviews of course end up being more about the eating experience and the people involved in that experience through the eyes of of nine year old boy. I’ve said before I love things written from the perspective of children and this has just reinforced that opinion. This story is one of the best in the book and it does a good job preparing you for what’s to come.
Eisenberg’s stories are a good mixture of witty, sad, and honest. His writing occasionally reminded me of David Foster Wallace in that way. There is even a story that is rather foot note heavy. I hope Jesse Eisenberg has something new coming soon, but until then, from what I understand, he’s also written a few plays, so I’ll have to look those up!