- About the Book
Known for his iconic film roles but also for his regular pieces in the New Yorker and his critically acclaimed plays, Eisenberg is an emerging literary voice. Taking its title from a group of stories that begin the book, Bream Gives Me Hiccups moves from contemporary L.A. to the dorm rooms of an American college to ancient Pompeii, throwing the reader into a universe of social misfits, reimagines scenes from history, and ridiculous overreactions. In one piece, a tense email exchange between a young man and his girlfriend is taken over by his sister, who is obsessed with the Bosnian genocide (This situation reminds be 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 ). In these forty-four stories, Eisenberg combines personal elements with highly imaginative settings, combining tenderness with a tragedy that lurks behind the jokey humor. The pieces, wryly amusing as single stories, become as a whole a touching exploration of the psychology of their protagonists. United by Eisenberg's gift for character, and grouped into chapters that open with illustrations by award-winning cartoonist Jean Jullien, the witty and moving pieces collected in Bream Gives Me Hiccups explore the various insanities of the modern world, and mark the arrival of a talented, self-ironic, and original writer.
Eisenberg, also a playwright, is often compared to Woody Allen, likely because of their shared affinity for neurotics, intellectuals and artists. These stories remind me more of Steve Martin in the way they often subvert comic convention and, more significantly, in how the author empathizes with his characters. Eisenberg's empathy, even more than his intelligence and wit, make him an artist worth watching.
Ugh. This is the sound produced by reading "Bream Makes Me Hiccup," the vacuous debut story collection from Jesse Eisenberg, better known as "the guy who played Mark Zuckerberg in the Facebook movie." Eisenberg is a gifted, even fearless screen actor, but as a writer, he's a dud. Stay in your lane, Jesse. The best that can be said about these 39 brief comic riffs is that they are occasionally mildly amusing, in an effete New Yorker way.... Book publishing is an increasingly savage, zero-sum game of cultural musical chairs, and every ounce of oxygen sucked up by Eisenberg's vanity project is one that is not going to spark the career of some worthy, desperately underappreciated writer. That person, whoever she is, just got bumped off the end of the queue.
Bream has niche appeal, and to some readers, could be construed as the self-indulgent ramblings of yet another celebrity with a book deal. But Eisenberg's perversely dark sense of humor gives stories bite, and the collection's loose structure split into nine sections, some lasting only a few pages makes it a brisk, approachable read.... Some sections work better than others.... Eisenberg will occasionally exhaust his cleverest bits until they lose their edge.... But ultimately, Bream strides more than it stumbles. It's a confident step forward for Eisenberg as a writer and should pave the way for a more formal novel, with any luck.