Kirkus Star


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If not often, it sometimes happens that a short-fiction writer's voice will convey more secured authority than any one of its individual vehicles. That seems to be the case here: Eisenberg works in a whole fan of modes--from screwball comedy to on-the-road disadvantage to urban-hip to sentimental--and while not all are successful in and of themselves, each shows her to be a writer of impressive projection and craft. The best story, the most realized, is the first: ""Flotsam""--a young woman recuperating from a soured love, taking refuge in the apartment of a Lower East Side flamboyante named Cinder, who owns a freaky boutique and is apt to say things to her fragile new roommate like this: ""You're lucky you're so nice. Men are going to treat you really well in your next life."" The story, finely comic, has whiz and velocity--which is generally the case here, remarkably; even in the far different mood of ""What It Was Like, Seeing Chris""--a suburban adolescent's glasslike relationship with an entirely mysterious, probably not reputable older man, a barfly. As well as limning the specifics of infatuation, the story's urban atmospherics haven't been done much better since Robert Hemenway's ""The Girl Who Sang With The Beatles."" Not as patently good are ""Rafe's Coat"" (brittle satire on society-chatter) and ""Broken Glass"" (a mourning young woman dunked into expatriate grotesqueness); they both go on for too long and lack core. ""A Lesson in Traveling Light"" and the title story--one about a young woman cross-countrying with a man whose contacts are far greater than she might have imagined, whose previous life all but crowds her out; the other somewhat similarly focused on a young woman out of her depths--occupy a mid-range of pathos, one that's nevertheless oddly angled. Eisenberg is still feeling out the margins of her talent--but her prose always has wit, justice, and musical sense; and her people--her strongest point--are unpredictable to the reader as well as to themselves. Quite a strong debut.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1986
Publisher: Knopf