The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg
by Deborah Eisenberg
$22.00 List Price
For the past quarter century or so, Deborah Eisenberg has been writing such perfect, satisfying, yet un-expectedly disturbing short stories that you would have had to be out of your mind to ask her for a novel. It’s been quite clear from the work she has already given us that she’s capable of saying everything that needs to be said in discrete units of six thousand words or less. And yet it now turns out that when you put all four of her story collections into a single chronologically ordered volume, something emerges that, while not quite a novel, has certain novelistic qualities—including, among other things, an overarching plot and personalities that develop over time.
The plot, as I see it, goes something like this: A young woman who has trouble with her family, with men, with earning a living, with questions of power and authority—in short, who has trouble with life—finally succeeds in getting herself out of an impossible situation and into a merely unpleasant one. This happens over and over again, but she does not seem to learn from the experience. She is a neurotic, isolated figure, yet her neuroses do not annoy us: On the contrary, they afford her the opportunity to make comical and sometimes startling observations about what we would otherwise consider ordinary existence. Here, for instance, is the depressive narrator of “Days,” a woman who has recently quit smoking and is so derailed by the effort that she can no longer figure out who she is:
I feel that I am a zoologist trying to discover the natural environment of an unknown animal found in a pet