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Twilight Of The Superheroes [Hardcover]

Deborah Eisenberg
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Jan. 26 2006
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 Year
An Atlantic Monthly Book of the Year
A 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

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Short-story master Eisenberg delivers, with signature intelligence and humor, six elegant, soulful new tales in her fifth book of stories. In a nuanced and compassionate family portrait, "Some Other, Better Otto," complex expressions of love and despair circle around a high-strung brother and his prodigiously talented, mentally ill sister. Several other stories also portray families pulling simultaneously apart while cleaving together, but each character and each motive is unique in Eisenberg's hands. The extraordinary, near–novella-length "Window" follows a young, naïve woman into a marginal, backwoods life with a secretive and dictatorial man who has business in arms dealing and a toddler son he's left in her care. The title piece is set in Manhattan around the events of 9/11 and focuses on the post-collegiate ennui of a group of 20-something friends facing an uncertain future. The author is at the top of her form delving into the varied but devastating truth that, even after an apocalypse, people still have to lie in the beds they've made, unable to sleep. A terrific addition to the oeuvre of one of America's finest and most deeply empathetic short story writers. (Feb.)
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Review

"There aren't many contemporary novels as shudderingly intimate and mordantly funny as Eisenberg's best stories."--Ben Marcus, The New York Times Book Review
 
"A masterly collection . . . Instead of forcing her characters' stories into neat, arbitrary, preordained shapes, Deborah Eisenberg 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
 
"Eisenberg's filament-thin weavings of desire, obligation, and missed opportunities remind one strongly of Henry James. . . . Eisenberg is a master of condensation and reconstruction, making beautiful murals from broken glass."--O, The Oprah Magazine
 
"Ambitious and resonant . . . Whether the subjects be lovely young girls grown old or waning superpowers, Eisenberg makes masterful short work out of marking their decline and fall."--NPR's Fresh Air
 
"The deepest pleasure in Ms. Eisenberg's stories is their vertiginous unpredictability, like obstacle courses the author jumps and rolls and shimmies through, clasping the reader to her like an infant. . . . These are fearless, fierce, light-bearing stories, offered in defense of what still matters."--The New York Observer
 
"Dazzling . . . Her distinctive voice and mastery of the short story elevate her to the ranks of kindred spirits like Gina Berriault, Alice Munro, and even Chekhov."--Time Out New York
 
"With every story in this superb new collection, Deborah Eisenberg, one of America's finest writers, offers new ways of seeing and feeling, as if something were being perfected at the core. The half dozen long stories here put her light years ahead of most story writers."--Alan Cheuse, San Francisco Chronicle
 
"Outstanding . . . Eisenberg offers enough insight and intelligent observation to amply justify her reputation as the American Alice Munro."--Yvonne Zipp, Christian Science Monitor.
 
"Like other current masters of the short story--Joy Williams, Lycia Davis, Ben Marcus--Eisenberg works her own fertile ground so faithfully and assiduously that she brooks no comparison. She simply writes like no one else."--Lisa Shea, Elle
 
"He stories are so skillfully crafted that they seem composed more of shapes and textures than of printed words. Reading her makes you wish, as you study the family in front of you in the grocery line, that you could see their thoughts rendered as one of Eisenberg's stunning inner monologues"
--Judith Lewis, Los Angles Times
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Deborah Eisenberg is nearly unmatched. Feb. 13 2006
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Complex relationships and troubling histories are skillfully telescoped in Eisenberg's new collection of six urbane, probing stories. 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." Eisenberg's seventh collection of stories, Twilight of the Superheroes, confirms her talent for fiction that, like Chekhov's, insinuates you right into the characters' gnarled hearts, by methods so subtle and slippery that you're not sure where you are or how you got there. Highly recommend. Another book worth looking into is by Giorgio Kostantinos--The Quest. Highly Recommend
Anne Spencer
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.2 out of 5 stars  20 reviews
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Series Of Short Stories Feb. 11 2006
By C. Hutton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Ms. Eisenberg has a wicked sense of literary creation. The colorful book jacket alone encompasses so many meanings and allusions. The battered Batman-like superhero watches over the mayhem of 9-11 and over the New York City loft where Ms. Eisenberg's characters of the titled story have gathered. The title itself invokes the opera of Richard Wagner, "The Twilight of the Gods." And the reader has not even reached the actual story itself.

The author is an acquired taste who makes the reader work at understanding the motives and actions of her flawed but all-too-human characters -- this is not beach reading. For those who enjoy the craft of her story-telling, the reader is referred to last year's "Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg" and to 1996's "The Stories (So Far) of Deborah Eisenberg" -- the latter is the reprinting together of her first two books of stories while the former is a 'best of" collection from all her published works.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Post-9/11ist stories about lostness and aloneness Jan. 21 2007
By DVL - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
With "Twighlight of the Superheroes," Deborah Eisenburg is throwing another log onto the early but incipient literary bonfire of "Post-9/11ism." Indeed, these stories are a testament to Post-9/11ism's leading attributes: expectation of imminent doom, the globe as a child that has lost its innocence, the theory that, contrary to the trend prevalent throughout most of history, the teenagers, 20- and 30-somethings of today will be the first generation to live less happily than their parents, as well as the feeling that our world, through its fast-paced ambition and utter forwardness, has made tragic mistakes for which our children and grandchildren will pay.

The title story, of course, says this the best. And as a 17-year-old who expects to reside one day in no place other than a city like New York, I finished it with tears in my eyes. Not because the story was dark, or polemic-sounding, which it was, but because, counter to those strides, there is empathy for the characters, and an underlying, godless faith that we as people will survive, continue to wake up in the morning and live the lives we make for ourselves. The world in which this story was written is not the world that existed ten years ago. This is a time of monumental change, and I welcome the recent movement of Post-9/11ism with open arms.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Aug. 22 2006
By Zolma - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The stories in this book are absolutely stunning. I want to know more about every single character. I care about them and hope that during my lifetime Ms. Eisernberg writes more stories with these characters. They are real, yet each one represents something. Amazing.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Short Stories April 13 2006
By John Matlock - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Ms. Eisenberg is one of the masters of the short story, winning award after award. Her stories have the tight composition characteristic of writing that has to tell a story in a few pages. The actions, the characters have to be distilled down to the essense of the story. In short stories you do not have the option of stringing out the character development over time, each word, each sentence has to ahve meaning.

Here are six of her latest stories. If you are a fan of hers, here is your next fix. If you are new, you are in for a special delight. Here are characters living out their lives as best they can. They are limited by their own abilities, their own beliefs, their families, and basically the beds that they have made for themselves.

Ms. Eisenberg is provessor of fictional writing at the University of Virginia.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best short story collections in years Sept. 24 2009
By A fan from Cambridge, Mass. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Deborah Eisenberg's stories are highly intelligent, witty, and complex--so complex they're like small novels.
They're actually about something, too. This collection is her apotheosis as an artist (thus far); and she has
just won a well-deserved MacArthur "Genius" grant!
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