Saturday, 18 April 2009
Twilight of the Superheroes by Deborah Eisenberg
The sublet apartment shared by four young singles with one of the most enviable views of New York skyline inadvertently becomes a front seat observation point of the horror of September 11 - planes tearing a rift through the clear morning sky. A gay art dealer tries to come to terms with his genius sister's mental illness. A woman visits her grandmother after she's had a stroke, and tries to find some resemblance to the powerful woman she knew as a child. A naive girl flees the fists of the gun dealer who is her boyfriend, and takes his son with her.
These are just some of the premises of the stories in Twilight of The Superheroes. Deborah Eisenberg has a disjointed way of telling them - her structure is unexpected and unconventional. In the title story, the chapters tesselate and bump into each other until finally, each piece finds its place in the whole (although the story still has a ramshackle feel to it). The confusion invoked relfects perfectly the chaos of the 9/11 aftermath - the detail of which I had never fully considered or understood. I mean the immediate, and the personal. The city being covered with ash; floating pieces of who-knows-what settling on every surface. People hurried past one another in the street, not wanting to make eye contact. Eisenberg brings to light in this story a devestating futility - one that she embodies in her main character's comic strip; PassivityMan.
In another story, Window, the sudden appearance of domestic violence is a shock and a rude awakening - once it happens, we can see it was always there, lurking behind the words. Eisenberg had just crafted them so cleverly it was easily overlooked until the moment of revelation. Her characters are not necessarily likeable but always well-voiced, and like all good short stories, these are condensed so that every word resonates and nothing is there accidentally. I loved the modern, poignant tone of each story, and how different each was from the other. I believe Eisenberg is an award-winning writer, and I think she has lots still to offer if these stories are anything to go by.