Twilight of the Superheroes: Stories
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Twilight of the Superheroes: Stories

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  862 ratings  ·  123 reviews
Deborah Eisenberg is nearly unmatched in her mastery of the short-story form. Now, in her newest collection, she demonstrates once again her virtuosic abilities in precisely distilled, perfectly shaped studies of human connection and disconnection. From a group of friends whose luck in acquiring a luxurious Manhattan sublet turns to disaster as their balcony becomes a fron...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published January 24th 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Aug 30, 2007 Joey rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like terrible writing
This book is emblematic of everything that's wrong with contemporary "literary" fiction. The only thing I can find of any interesting literary value here is the last paragraph or so of the titular first story. This book was reviewed well by a lot of publications, and I can't for the life of me understand why. I can only assume that the people who reviewed this book well are the same kind of people who like the whiny, affected fiction they print in The New Yorker and Diane Johnson's terrible nove...more
I just finished this book a few days ago and, looking through the table of contents now, I'm already having trouble recalling most of the stories. Partly this is because most of the titles don't connect to their stories in any recognizable way, so when I see "Window," it doesn't trigger "oh, yeah, the one where that creepy guy takes the girl to his isolated cabin to babysit his kid." Partly it's also because the stories themselves often didn't stick with me. The two elements most contributing to...more
Okay, I've now finished the book and I have to say that while it did get a little better, it wasn't by much.

The first story is AWFUL. She lectures you on things you already know, repeats the same crap over and over, and while the disjointed sections didn't really bother me, they didn't really add up to anything for me. It just seems like the story was pretty pointless. Unless the point was that after 9/11 we're just totally adrift. Maybe in the year or so afterwards it felt like that, but I don...more
I may just have to give up on reading short stories. Every so often, I am seduced anew by the breathless, hagiographic blurbs on the cover of the latest hip author's contribution to the genre, to the point where I actually allow myself to believe that the book in question really will be "exhaustingly fascinating", "spirited and masterly", the next {Jim Shepard, Alice Munro, Chekhov, Lorrie Moore, John Cheever.....}. Hope springs eternal.

Yet somehow, things never quite turn out as promised. Usual...more
When people say that they don't read short stories because they want more character development, these are the stories to point them towards. Every character is fully human, with human hopes and baggage frailties. But if they say also that they don't read short stories because not enough happens, well, this book won't change their minds. Most of the plots in this book read like an anecdote about a friend that you might relate to another friend. "She went to New York to be with her family after h...more

"The dining room was an aerie, a bower, hung with a playful lattice of garlands. Its white tile floors were adorned with painted baskets of fruit, and there were real ones scattered here and there on stands. But even as the waiters glided by with trays of glossy roasted vegetables and platters of fish, even while Harry took it upon himself to order for her, knowledgeably and solicitously, Kate felt tainted. Despite the room's conceit that eating was a pastime for elves and fairies, Mrs. Reitz's...more
"By stripping away quotation marks and the informational fat that might provide obvious explanations, by thrusting readers into the middle of a conversation with characters we have yet to meet properly or playing hot potato with point of view, Eisenberg tests just how much can be left out before a story drowns in enigma." So says Ben Marcus in his effusive New York Times' review, and I don't know if this statement better captures exactly what I found dreary about this book, or the critical aesth...more
The best of these stories — the title story and "Some Other, Better Otto" — are perfectly misshapen masterpieces chronicling The Way We Live Now. These are stories not only about the biggest questions of ethics and identity, but also about the processes by which we go about asking and answering such questions for ourselves.

A few of the stories lack the clarity and audacity of the collection's best, and occasionally Eisenberg's structural experimentation becomes frustrating or precious. Still wor...more
My new favorite short story writer. These stories are strange, and abstract, and daaark, dark dark, and I loved them all. A story about family and memory that is, tangentially, the best writing on September 11th I've ever read. One about true love and finding independence that is actually about abuse and sisterhood, and things one can't escape. One about schizophrenia and genius, that is actually about what all of us have inside us that is incurable and glorious and devastating. One about old ag...more
Eisenberg is a very interesting writer. Sometimes I couldn't follow the logic of her sentences. But I was always impressed with her use of language and her sympathy for her characters. Her writing is not gimmicky.
The stories are organized from best to less good (in my opinion). I liked all of the characters very much. Especially with the first very long story, I felt like I could have stayed with those characters for much, much longer.
I would like to read more of her writing.
I was disappointed by this book. I remember loving The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg...So Far, and these stories didn't grab me the same way. They seemed to be *trying* to live up to a disaffected postmodern approach. Maybe I'm just not with it right now, but at some points I couldn't even figure out the abrupt time shifts. There were a few well-turned phrases, but not enough to make the book. Oh well.
This was a 3.5 for me. The stories take a little work on the reader's part: she doesn't use quotation marks, the point of view continually switches, and at the beginning of some stories I had trouble sorting out who was whom. Also, "who was whom" is just the kind of phrase that many of her highbrow characters pride themselves on so if that really grates on you don't read this book.

It was worth it to me because it tapped into the unease of feeling powerless about things beyond your control, and a...more
Dec 29, 2007 Pamela rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This is a collection that will last--and continue to show what the possibilities are for the short story. I've read each story more than once, and some several times, because they stay exhilarating and moving. Eisenberg doesn't sound like anyone else, doesn't write like anyone else, and she brings me pleasures I can't find anywhere else.
hey halle, check out what i'm finally reading...
Josh Ang
This is the first time I've tried reading Deborah Eisenberg and I'm simultaneously impressed by her non-linear narrative as much as bothered by it.

This narrative device of moving back and forth between the present and the past is most evident in the titular story about a bunch of young adults whose lives converge at a Manhattan loft. Their fortunes reflect the magnificent view of the vibrant city and also plunge as the twin towers collapse on 9/11.

In each of the six stories in this collection,...more
'Twilight of the Superheroes' is the Eisenberg's fourth collection (of 7 stories) of short stories. This is the latest collection that has been published so far. All the four collections are available in a single volume 'The Collected Stories Of Deborah Eisenberg'. Some pointers on her style before you start reading her works. The stories do not always have things tied up neatly at the end, there is no progression from point A to B to C. In several cases there are several strands shown to the re...more
Kasa Cotugno
These stories deal with today, but more specifically, the "today" of four years ago. The title story is a gem, focussing on 20somethings whose nova like promise has begun to collapse even before the events of 9/11, for which they have an unfortunate front row seat. Shifting focus Eisenberg presents the preceding generation along with its shattered American dream of immigrants for their children and the transformation of New York into an "open wound." Eisenberg is able to compress entire historie...more
Sep 15, 2008 Ken rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people looking for a literary exploration of American life post-September 11.
In this collection of stories, Eisenberg follows the half-lives of its protagonists; she deftly and carefully traces how time has changed the characters and the world in which they live, the opportunities they have missed, and the mistakes thay have (and sometimes continue) to make.

The first story was the most interesting as it examines a group of friends living in a borrowed apartment with a fantastic view view of New York City and how their lives differed after they watched the skyline on Sept...more
A NY Times Notable Book of the Year from 2006 that got tons of press, this book is a collection of six short stories filled with the tension of lives post 9/11. The book’s title is the title of its first story, a look at the fractured lives of four twenty-something New Yorkers who were subletting an apartment with a view of the Twin Towers. “The Flaw in the Design” focuses on the tension between a son and his father; the son despises his family’s wealth and upbringing and his father’s job – whic...more
Dec 13, 2012 Alan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all short story fans
picked up from library Saturday, read title story last night - reaction to witnessing 9/11, pretty good... and they get better, but maybe it's just me getting accustomed to her style.

for once I agree with the quote on the cover: 'concentrated bursts of perfection'.
more later.. (hopefully)

Clare, my wife, read this after me and she said she enjoyed the beginnings of all the stories and some (Like it or Not) all the way through, but found the rest tailed off into 'wankery'. That is people talking...more
Mikhail Yukhnovskiy
The structure of the stories is quite unusual to me, Deborah Eisenberg isn't much concerned with the traditional structure. Her stories are very intimate and sudden, as life itself. She ponders problems, inner crises and unspoken feelings of small people.

The stories are in some ways distinctly american, but when one continues reading the gentle tapestry of the sorrows, breakdowns and losses transcends nationality. These stories are very vividly and gently human. They are about all of us, even t...more
Douglas Feil
I've been reading this on and off for the past couple of years. From what I've read about Deborah Eisenberg, she's a self-taught writer and sort of emerged slowly and quietly to the literary scene. That's how these stories feel, too. There's nothing mechanical about them, nothing you'd expect from a writer that followed all the rules, made the necessary connections, and published with fanfare. The stories in this collection are unlike anything I've read, each an original masterpiece in emotional...more
Oct 30, 2007 Melanie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Patrick
You know, I don't hear too much about Deborah Eisenberg. Admittedly I am not exactly hanging out with Bill Buford and Charles McGrath, and spend 90 percent of my time talking to a baby (who frequently mentions Lorrie Moore and Alice Munro, but that's pretty much it.) But I find that she writes some of the best, richest, most alive, complex and affecting short stories I've ever read. I'm not sure this would be my favorite book of hers - I am partial to Transactions in a Foreign Currency, maybe be...more
I nearly gave up on this one while halfway through, but I'm glad I didn't. The two 1st person stories (which appear last) are much better than the others in here. And while I acknowledge this is a shallow aesthetic judgment, I had a hard time caring about some of the people in these stories, who all say, without any trace of irony, things like "goodness gracious!" and "good heavens, no!" and "Oh my heavens!" and exclamation points abound, and they all sit around being upper-middle class white in...more
Chris Blocker

I tried to muddle through this collection, but it was difficult. I had no idea what the author was talking about half the time. I couldn't figure out if she just had ADHD or I had an attention deficit disorder of my own. Take, for example, the following passage from the title story
"And actually, Russell (who seems to be not only Amity’s friend and possible suitor but also her agent) has obtained for Amity a whopping big advance from some outfit that Madison refers to as Cheeseball Editions...more
(6/10) Eh. I'm not usually one of the hardcore Franzen-burning types, but Deborah Eisenberg's stories seem to support their dismissals of mainstream literature. A couple of these stories were alright, but for most of them I was just desperately hungry for some fiction that wasn't about rich white people living in New York and their complicated relationships with their family members and how that made them feel That's not entirely fair -- far from it be me to declare any person or demographic's l...more
Patrick McCoy
I really enjoyed Deborah Eisenberg’s collection of short stories Under the 82nd Airborne (1992), and want to read all of her stories. Twilight of the Superheroes (2006) is her latest collection, and while there are some very good stories-they generally lack the exotic flavor of the previous book, which was set in South America during the 80s. This collection is considered post 9/11, but I think only one story deals with it directly, but it haunts several of the other stories. I guess these stori...more
Every critique I've seen of this book refers in some way to 9/11, which isn't terribly unexpected. While Eisenberg seems to dance around that date without directly addressing it, it's still clearly the dominant theme of each of her stories, chronicling worlds that have been oh-so-slightly tilted off their axes.

So maybe the fact that I was so unaffected by her stories has more to do with a certain weariness towards that particular date as some sort of crucial indicator that the world has forever...more
Jeff Lanter
I was thinking about giving this book 3 stars and then settled on 3.5 and finally bumped it up to four. Eisenberg is a talented author, has a unique voice, and a style of writing short stories. There is enough range in these stories that most people will find a couple that appeal to them. While I missed some of things Eisenberg skips or uses sparingly over like gestures and character descriptions, there are more than enough things she does well to make up for that. "Twilight of Superheroes" and...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Critics call Deborah Eisenberg a master of the short story, and Twilight, her seventh collection, reaffirms that reputation. With insight and intelligence, Eisenberg delves deep inside the daily lives of "outsiders" wandering through life. All stories didn't touch all critics equally; some described the title story as one of the best pieces of fiction to capture the dislocation of 9/11, while others called it hackneyed. Other tales struck critics as either too political or unbelievable. Only "So

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Born in Chicago, Eisenberg moved to New York City in the 1960's where she has lived ever since. She also teaches at the University of Virginia. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Yale Review, Vanity Fair, and Tin House. She has won the Rea Award for the Short Story, a Whiting Writer's Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and three O. Henry Awards.
More about Deborah Eisenberg...
The Collected Stories The Stories (So Far) All Around Atlantis Transactions in a Foreign Currency Under the 82nd Airborne

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“It's broadening. You meet people in your family you'd never happen to run into otherwise.” 6 likes
“Just think! Garden, garden, garden, garden, garden, two happy people, and it could have gone on forever! They knew, they'd been told, but they ate it anyway, and from there on out, 'family!' Shame, fear, jobs, mortality, envy, murder..."
"Well," William said brightly, "and sex.”
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