To most of us, Jesse Eisenberg associates with the role of the founder of Facebook in the movie “The Social Network”. What a broad group of people, I suppose, doesn’t know is the fact that, Eisenberg is an author of plays and regularly publishes in The New Yorker his short stories.
I n 2015 he published his first book, a collection of short stories, “Bream Gives Me Hiccups”. Some of those stories had been previously published in The New Yorker. However, Eisenberg is known for his eccentricity and publicly admitted fears and phobias. As he himself admits, he visits two different therapists a week. Well, I guess all of us have some needs.
The collection is all like Eisenberg himself, going weekly to at least two therapists. On the
one hand, the stories are full of humor, irony, and sometimes, actually quite often, filled with pastiche on the modern world. On the contrary, the book is bursting with fears, phobias, psychoanalysts, though mocked and exaggerated but still with a strong and right tenor.
In the title story „Bream Gives Me Hiccups”, the nine-year-old boy with his mother visit different restaurants, gives them reviews and grants them with a respective number of stars on the scale on which maximum is „only” two thousand. However, most of the time the kid spends on observing and making remarks on a behavior of adults that he meets,
but most of all he focuses his attention to his mother, who for no matter what the price is wants to be fancy and trendy in all the situations. Although you can feel she’s kind of conservative person and narrow-minded, she puts a lot of effort in being perceived as an open and tolerant in Iraqi restaurant or progressive by visiting a modern organic place called Organix, even though she doesn’t know what she eats nor could appreciate neither the food nor the concept of both locations. Yet the most challenging and arduous decision was still ahead of her. How can she choose which cannoli are the best at the Italian market? Probably one confronted with so many slogans and stands would have a slight problem making up one’s mind. Well, she doesn’t have one. She finds it pretty easy to pick between four stands with different slogans: first, “The City’s best cannoli”, second “Oldest cannoli receipt”, third “World’s best cannoli” and the last one that doesn’t have any slogan but looks very local and typical Italian place. What does she choose?
(…) Mom marched up to the World’s best!!! stand and got two cannolis. When I asked her why she chose the World’s Best!!! stand she said, „It’s the world’s best cannoli! That means there can’t be any better cannoli. In the world! Think about it!
Although absurdity of characters’ choices might be humorous, they also reflect so many real-life situations when you think closer. Similarly, Harper Jablonski, a protagonist of “My roommate stole my ramen. Letters from frustrated freshman”, who as a student tries to manage her frustration and anxiety by writing letters to her high school counselor. Beginning with “difficult” situations like theft of her chicken ramen through growing fears of relations like friendship, ending with a story of her deep and lifelong love that lasted only a few minutes and was as fictional as possible, as it turns out to be only her madness projection of reality. Even lack of any, seriously any, real encounter with the one doesn’t stop Harper from creating in her head their shared life from the first date, sex, share house, kids and life as a whole. When it turns out Ryan, the one, has a girlfriend, Harper recap the situation, rescuing her self-esteem, in this manner:
Once I realized how shitty Ryan was as a life partner, I felt SO much better. My whole body relaxed and I actually thought I was so lucky to have gone through our whole life together because it made me realize how AWFUL it would actually be to share it with „Ryan.
Those are only two, but I think my favorite stories, to give you an example of what you can expect from the book There are twenty-six stories in the collection, each representing funnily and sometimes sad when your realize how much this absurdity and nonsense is accurate. The book is divided into nine kind-of-chapters, beginning with the
title story as a separate one and among others Family, History, Dating, Self-Help, Language. Every story takes upon real-life experiences that at first might seem to be completely exaggerated and a little bit irrational and out of the blue. But then, when you think of encounters and situations you either have experienced or witnessed and you really closely think of them – though I am sure that that close consideration is not necessary – you find them astonishingly accurate. The way those stories mock the reality leaves you no option than just to laugh at human nonsensical behavior.
Eisenberg wisely and interestingly chooses the form of each story: short prose, texts exchange between characters, email correspondence or dialogue. The variety of forms and stories Eisenberg tells make “Bream Gives Me Hiccups” a delightful and easy-reading collection. Moreover, he touches in a smart, humorous and ironic way challenging and important issues of nowadays societies. Honestly, when I’ve finished the book, I thought all of us could find themselves in at least on of those stories. Does it mean we all need therapy? Well, now, closing the book I feel a little bit anxious and nauseous.