Twilight of the Superheroes
By Deborah Eisenberg
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Hardcover, 9780374299415, 240pp.)
Publication Date: January 24, 2006
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
Categories: Short Stories (single author)
Deborah Eisenberg is nearly unmatched in her mastery of the short-story form. Now, in her newest collection, she demonstrates once again her virtuosic abilities in precisely distilled, perfectly shaped studies of human connection and disconnection. From a group of friends whose luck in acquiring a luxurious Manhattan sublet turns to disaster as their balcony becomes a front-row seat to the catastrophe of 9/11; to the Roman holiday of a schoolteacher running away from the news of her ex-husband's life-threatening illness, and her unlikely guide, a titled art scout in desperate revolt against his circumstances and aging; to the too painful love of a brother for his schizophrenic sister, whose tragic life embitters him to the very idea of family, Eisenberg evokes "intense, abundant human lives" in which "everything that happens is out there waiting for you to come to it." Deborah Eisenberg is the author of six previous collections of stories. The recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award and a Guggenheim fellowship, she lives in New York City and teaches at the University of Virginia. A New York Times Notable Book of the YearAn Atlantic Monthly Book of the YearA Boston Globe Best Book of the Year In her newest collection, Deborah Eisenberg demonstrates her abilities in precisely distilled studies of an American reality that has become increasingly chaotic, brutal, and out of control, both personally and politically. From a group of variously ambitious friends delighted to find a luxurious sublet just across from the World Trade Center in the year 2000; to a family whose tranquility is strangely poisoned by its years spent in poor foreign lands; to the too-painful love of a brother for his schizophrenic sister, whose life embitters him to the very idea of family, Eisenberg widens her range to focus her eye on a terrifying contemporary world in which "everything that happens is out there waiting for you to come to it." "Deborah Eisenberg offers commanding proof that in the right hands, the short story can be a legitimate art form, not just a test run for writers warming up to write a novel . . . There aren't many contemporary novels as shudderingly intimate and mordantly funny as Eisenberg’s best stories, and her latest collection, her fifth in 20 years, should finally establish her as one of the most important fiction writers now at work . . . Eisenberg has given is these remarkable stories, machines of perfect revelation deftly constructed by a contemporary master."—Ben Marcus, The New York Times Book Review "Deborah Eisenberg offers commanding proof that in the right hands, the short story can be a legitimate art form, not just a test run for writers warming up to write a novel . . . There aren't many contemporary novels as shudderingly intimate and mordantly funny as Eisenberg’s best stories, and her latest collection, her fifth in 20 years, should finally establish her as one of the most important fiction writers now at work . . . Eisenberg has given is these remarkable stories, machines of perfect revelation deftly constructed by a contemporary master."—Ben Marcus, The New York Times Book Review "As Eisenberg publishes Twilight of the Superheroes, her fourth and most fully realized collection, the literary fashion for auterity has given way to a reengagement with the big, the discursive, the ambitious, to a more copious treatment of character and its points of connection to a larger world . . . Although Eisenberg's urge to place her characters in a social context is . . . political, the political dimension of her fiction is less defining than the fact that her larger world is always the interior one, the unmapped psychic territory that crisis brings to light . . . Sometimes writers, without changing what they do, seem to arrive at their moment. Eisenberg is true only to her character's perspective, and that perspective now seems truer than ever to our own. There is a certain humility in seeing only as one character sees, in standing, as the author of a fictional world, not above that world but in it."—Jonathan Dee, Harper’s Magazine "The title story of Deborah Eisenberg's masterly new collection takes place in a millennial New York City, cutting backward and forward in time to give the reader glimpses of that metropolis before and after 9/11 . . . Using her playwright's ear for dialogue and a journalistic eye for the askew detail, Ms. Eisenberg gives us—in just a handful of pages—a visceral sense of these characters' daily routines, the worlds they inhabit and the families they rebel against or allow to define them. By moving fluently back and forth between the present and the past, she shows how memories and long ago events shadow current decisions, how the gap between expectations and reality grows ever wider as the years scroll by. 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, The New York Times "For the past two decades, Deborah Eisenberg has had to content herself with being esteemed rather than merely famous. Her stories are careful chronicles of contemporary life, unfolding from the prismatic perspective of a narrator both wise and intimate with her characters. The quality is what you might call high realism, a definition necessary only because so many other unreal states have crowded the genre. The voice is knowing, even insinuating, but there's a regard for humanity that keeps the somber cast of her stories from taking over. She writes . . . in the tradition of the old story lovers like William Trevor and Lorrie Moore, connected mostly by their pristine craft and respect for the thickness of the form. . . Her stories reveal all the steely beauty of a knife wrapped in velvet."—Gail Caldwell, The Boston Globe "Eisenberg's . . . collection of stories confirms her talent for fiction that, like Chekhov's, insinuate you right into the character's gnarled hearts, by methods so subtle and slippery that you’re not sure where you are or how you got there."—The Washington Post Book World "That's how it is for the people in Eisenberg's new book of stories, Twilight of the Superheroes. They meander with little purpose through their mystifying days, gazing toward sprawling futures full of nothing in particular, blinking like newborn mice as they watch their accidental comforts—the swank apartment, the too-good wine, the little blue-painted, rent-free room—evaporate as comforts always do . . . But 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. Eisenberg has long been in the business of elevating regular folk to literary status. Her stories are so skillfully crafted that they seem composed more of shapes and textures than of printed words."—Judith Lewis, Los Angeles Times "With every sto
Deborah Eisenberg is the author of three previous collections of stories. The recipient of many awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Fellowship, a Rea Award, and a Whiting Writers’ Award, she lives in New York City and teaches at the University of Virginia.