I like Jesse Eisenberg as an actor, so I was curious to see how he would do as a writer. Thank You to Grove Press for an advanced copy of Bream Gives Me Hiccups, in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT- In Eisenberg's debut short-story collection, he offers a mix of a traditional short-story format and theatrical writing. The subjects of his pieces are vast, from pop-culture to historical figures and all types of fictional characters thrown into the mix.
LIKE- Bream Gives Me Hiccups started out strong, with the title story, which follows a privileged nine-year old, as he reviews the places that he visits with his parents, who are divorced. This story was funny and affecting, with the kid trying to make sense of his world, which includes a heavy dose of dysfunction via a manipulative and vengeful mother.
I also appreciated Eisenberg's play with the format of his stories. This collection could as easily be found in fiction, as it could be in the theatre section of a bookstore. Many of the stories are in the format of a monologue or a dialogue scene. As I was expecting something more traditional, this was a refreshing change of pace and a fitting format for many of the stories. A lot of the characters are young and I kept thinking that this would be a good resource for teenage drama students.
DISLIKE- After the first story, the collection takes a huge nose dive. An often stated piece of writing advice, is to make sure that your protagonist is a minimum of one of the following;
Unfortunately, Eisenberg failed to include at least one of these traits in most of his characters. He certainly was not trying to include likable, as these are a miserable bunch of people. When he tried to go for smart, it rang as pretentious and most of the time, the funny fell flat. The title story had all three of these elements, but the rest, failed to measure up to the initial story.
The worst of the bunch was a sluggish tale of an unhappy college freshman, which is told through the letters that she writes to her former high school guidance counselor. Harper Jablonski is such an unlikeable protagonist, that it a painful read. This story comes about mid-way through the book and it derailed my interest entirely. I trudged on, but only because I was committed to writing a review.
RECOMMEND - No. If you have a chance to read the first story, Bream Gives Me Hiccups, do so, but skip the rest of the collection.