Twilight of the Superheroes
by Deborah Eisenberg
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Unlike the book-every-other-year writers whose minds we seem to know in each elaborate fold and crease, and to whom we can almost feel we have a subscription, there are those—like Deborah Eisenberg, whose short stories used to appear from time to time in The New Yorker—who publish only rarely and whose books we wait for. Eisenberg’s fourth book of new work, Twilight of the Superheroes, seems to have been the longest in the making (nine years have passed since the publication of All Around Atlantis). The six stories here feel especially new, perhaps because they didn’t appear in large-circulation magazines (what’s up over there at The New Yorker?). They are her most ambitious and beautiful works to date. Can it be true that with talent, effort, the ability to keep at it, and a quite short haircut one eventually becomes great? It has worked for Deborah Eisenberg.
Eisenberg isn’t always the most accessible writer. Her stories are often less than linear in structure, and she’s said she has no idea what the word “epiphany” means (“There’s something about the idea of it that I simply reject”). And she has a knack for the ungracious character—the one who gets kicked under the table, argued with, and often sighed over. She’s able to present such people in all their irascibility and mess, and then somehow—like those psychologists who prove that pessimists have a more accurate view of reality than their optimistic and normal counterparts—by the end, reveal the cranks’ greater humanity and even make the “better” characters seem cardboard in comparison.