Bream Gives Me Hiccups review
I love reading celebrity books. I also love that Jesse Eisenberg would be horrified that I’m putting his book in that category. (Sorry, you can’t have your literary cake and eat it too.) I’ve already finished Bossypants by Tina Fey, Through Thick and Thin by Gok Wan, Listen to the Squawking Chicken by Elaine Lui and Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham. Mindy Kaling and Amy Schumer’s books are still on my wish list. As long as they’re actually written by said celebrity and not a ghostwriter, I think they’re more revealing than any interview. And you can tell so much about a person by their punctuation, anyway.
So of course I downloaded Eisenberg’s book of short stories, Bream Gives Me Hiccups as soon as it came out. Sure, I’m a little biased because I think he’s cute, but he’s written several plays and has a degree in Anthropology. He’s intelligent, but not in a James Franco kind of way.
The first story is his best. It’s about a nine-year-old boy writing reviews of all the expensive restaurants his single mom takes him to. It’s both hilarious and heartbreaking, which is a balance Eisenberg strikes well in the rest of the book.
Unfortunately, with the exception of a few other stories, it’s downhill from there. Some chapters are just dialogues between two or three characters, which would make quirky skits, but tend to drag on the page. This is where you can tell he’s still adjusting his form from theater to short story.
Some of his jokes are too esoteric. It’s kind of hard to laugh when two young characters use the Bosnian genocide as an analogy for a juvenile relationship. Unless you’re into that sort of thing. It sounded like something that might’ve made a good inside joke in college, but comes off as too pretentious to the average reader.
If Eisenberg is trying to convince us how smart he is, he just succeeded in making himself look like an idiot. Who would find that funny?
I did laugh out loud at “My Little Sister Texts Me With Her Problems.” Maybe because the whole conversation is almost identical to texts between my little sister and me. “My Mother Explains the Ballet to Me” and “If She Ran Into Me Now…” were cute too. “My Roommate Stole My Ramen: Letters From a Frustrated Freshman” came off as ridiculous in the beginning, since it’s told from a ditzy college student’s perspective. But like the first story, it has a poignant through line that pulls it together. Too bad half the story is told in footnotes, which is annoying and unnecessary.
Bream isn’t a bad first book, and I’m sure Eisenberg could smooth out his kinks in the next one (of course he’ll write another one). He’s at his best when he’s sincere, rather than trying to make us laugh with quotes from National Geographic.
Header image credit: papertraildiary.com