UNDER THE 82nd AIRBORNE: Stories by Deborah Eisenberg


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Once more, as with her debut collection, Transactions in a Foreign Currency (1986), Eisenberg's range of interests and formal containers is very wide. Her stories take a while getting up to speed, but bemuse there is so interesting a stylist behind them, we give them the time. Still, the problem, as with her first collection, is that the voice sometimes seems all that there is of substance. Two political stories, both about Central America--the title piece and ""Holy Week""--are finally thinned by the predictability of their old-hat premises: that an innocent abroad apprehends rottenness soon enough. Two stories, ""A Cautionary Tale"" and ""In The Station,"" are a bit too portentous about Manhattan flakiness (in the first) or about the vicious irresponsibility of the young bored rich (in the second). Eisenberg's social intelligence is more subtly flexed in ""The Robbery""--a dinner party at which prejudices and presumptions are imperceptibly dismantled; and the world of rich actors and coke-dealers gets an improbable and satisfying burnish in ""Presents."" The book's most remarkable story, though, is the already anthologized ""The Custodian""--again innocence lost, but in a tale that suggests how cruelly manipulative of reality innocence itself may be. Eisenberg here gives up most of her gorgeous yet finally merely verbal mannerisms (""His voice was a graphitelike emollient, a granular medium in which the words spread out soothingly"") in favor of sustained mood-building that results in a story of finely shifting, nearly dreamlike amorality. In this story (though in no others here to this degree), Eisenberg exhibits her potential mastery.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1992
Page count: 225pp
Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux