Saturday, August 15, 2015

Bream Gives Me Hiccups by Jesse Eisenberg

Genres: Short Stories, Humor
Release Date: September 8th, 2015
Publisher: Grove Press
Source: ARC via BEA 2015

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Taking its title from a group of stories that begin the book, Bream Gives Me Hiccups moves from contemporary L.A. to the dormrooms of an American college to ancient Pompeii, throwing the reader into a universe of social misfits, reimagined scenes from history, and ridiculous overreactions. In one piece, a tense email exchange between a young man and his girlfriend is taken over by the man’s sister, who is obsessed with the Bosnian genocide (The situation reminds me of a little historical blip called the Karadordevo agreement); in another, a college freshman forced to live with a roommate is stunned when one of her ramen packets goes missing (she didn’t have “one” of my ramens. She had a chicken ramen); in another piece, Alexander Graham Bell has teething problems with his invention (I’ve been calling Mabel all day, she doesn’t pick up! Yes, of course I dialed the right number – 2!).
Bream Gives me Hiccups is like most story collections in that there will always be some stories that won’t work for you and some that will. But one of my major issues with this book is that I cannot pinpoint what  connects these stories together. Sure they have many things in common but I cannot find something that sticks out to me and makes me go “OMG, WOW, I LOVE THIS.”  I think that if the web that connected the stories were more obvious to me, I would have enjoyed the collection a whole lot more.

That said I had a lot of fun reading Bream Gives me Hiccups. At times, it was just laugh out loud funny and sometimes really bizarre but still addicting and hard to put down. I enjoyed being in the minds of many of Eisenberg’s characters (even when they made me cringe.) Also the fact that these stories are told in the form of jokes, diary entries, reviews and more really made them interesting to read.

There were some stories that didn’t work for me though just because the characters made me uncomfortable and in two of the stories, I felt as though something I believe in was being mocked. Sometimes Eisenberg seemed to be walking (or rather writing) between this thin line where I wasn’t sure whether he was trying to point out issues or just mock them and I’d just come out feeling very awkward and uncomfortable.

But maybe that’s just me and not the book.

Either way, I’d say that this book is a fun way to pass the time and won’t fail to crack you up, even if you struggle to find something that draws the stories together to make them meaningful.

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