Twilight Of The Superheroes by Deborah Eisenberg, 2006
The magic trick:
Story elements forming thematic compounds
There are elements of this story that work marvelously – the way age seems to reveal no wisdom but instead only nostalgia. There are elements of this story that I would claim don’t work at all – the trips into the world of Nathaniel’s comic book and the entire superhero motif.
But most of all, there are elements. Lots and lots of elements. This is a crowded, complex story. It’s so crowded that the elements don’t coalesce into a single whole; they form larger compounds of theme and ideas.
I’m not sure I particularly liked this story, but it certainly gives you a lot to think about.
And that’s quite a trick on Eisenberg’s part.
Nathaniel and his friends have been subletting – thanks, obviously, to Uncle Lucien – for a ridiculously minimal rent and on Mr. Matsumoto’s highly tolerable conditions of cat-sitting and general upkeep. Nathaniel and Lyle and Amity and Madison each have something like an actual bedroom, and there are three whole bathrooms, one equipped with a Jacuzzi. The kitchen, stone and steel, has cupboards bigger than most of their friends’ apartments. Art – important, soon to be important, or very recently important, most of which was acquired from Uncle Lucien – hangs on the walls.
And the terrace! One has only to open the magic sliding panel to find oneself halfway to heaven. On the evening, over three years ago, when Uncle Lucien completed arrangements for Nathaniel to sublet and showed him the place, Nathaniel stepped out onto the terrace and tears shot right up into his eyes.
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I had Eisenberg’s recent collection, My Duck is Your Duck, on my reading list for this summer, but then last fall I read her short story “The Third Tower” in the 2019 Best American Short Stories; I was less than impressed (hey, we can’t all like everything, even prizewinning stories). So I thought I’d go instead for the collection you’re now going through, and… well, I think she’s going to be pretty far down on the waiting list for a while. Then again, I’m tempted to read it with your posts as a guide, giving me something to bounce off of.
Are you interested at all in looking at the next BASS, scheduled for publication in November? I realize that isn’t your pattern, but it’s something I do every year and I keep trying to tempt others into the madness (only one success so far), since it’s more fun that way and generates more insight.
That sounds like a great idea!
Great! It’s totally free-form, Jake Weber (Workshop Heretic, https://workshopheretic.blogspot.com/search/label/BASS ) and I just post on our own blogs and link to each other, commenting on each other’s posts as we are moved to do so. I’m always surprised at how much more I see when I look through someone else’s eyes. I’ll give you a nudge as we get closer.
Our Deborah Eisenberg weeks coincided. Your stories sounded a little better than the one I read.