The first collection of short fiction from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jeffrey Eugenides
Jeffrey Eugenides’s bestselling novels have shown him to be an astute observer of the crises of adolescence, self-discovery, family love, and what it means to be American in our times. The stories in Fresh Complaint explore equally rich—and intriguing—territory. Ranging from the bitingly reproductive antics of “Baster” to the dreamy, moving account of a young traveler’s search for enlightenment in “Air Mail” (selected by Annie Proulx for Best American Short Stories), this collection presents characters in the midst of personal and national emergencies. We meet a failed poet who, envious of other people’s wealth during the real-estate bubble, becomes an embezzler; a clavichordist whose dreams of art founder under the obligations of marriage and fatherhood; and, in “Fresh Complaint,” a high school student whose wish to escape the strictures of her immigrant family lead her to a drastic decision that upends the life of a middle-aged British physicist.
Narratively compelling, beautifully written, and packed with a density of ideas despite their fluid grace, these stories chart the development and maturation of a major American writer.
Complainers -- Air mail -- Baster -- Early music -- Timeshare -- Find the bad guy -- The oracular vulva -- Capricious gardens -- Great experiment -- Fresh complaint
Jeffrey Kent Eugenides is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and short story writer of Greek and Irish extraction.
Eugenides was born in Detroit, Michigan, of Greek and Irish descent. He attended Grosse Pointe's private University Liggett School. He took his undergraduate degree at Brown University, graduating in 1983. He later earned an M.A. in Creative Writing from Stanford University.
In 1986 he received the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Nicholl Fellowship for his story "Here Comes Winston, Full of the Holy Spirit". His 1993 novel, The Virgin Suicides, gained mainstream interest with the 1999 film adaptation directed by Sofia Coppola. The novel was reissued in 2009.
Eugenides is reluctant to appear in public or disclose details about his private life, except through Michigan-area book signings in which he details the influence of Detroit and his high-school experiences on his writings. He has said that he has been haunted by the decline of Detroit.
Jeffrey Eugenides lives in Princeton, New Jersey, with his wife, the photographer and sculptor Karen Yamauchi, and their daughter. In the fall of 2007, Eugenides joined the faculty of Princeton University's Program in Creative Writing.
His 2002 novel, Middlesex, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the Ambassador Book Award. Part of it was set in Berlin, Germany, where Eugenides lived from 1999 to 2004, but it was chiefly concerned with the Greek-American immigrant experience in the United States, against the rise and fall of Detroit. It explores the experience of the intersexed in the USA. Eugenides has also published short stories.
Eugenides is the editor of the collection of short stories titled My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead. The proceeds of the collection go to the writing center 826 Chicago, established to encourage young people's writing.
Ever since Jeffrey Eugenides burst on to the literary scene in the early 1990s with The Virgin Suicides, he's proven himself to be an expert commentator on the foibles of the human condition, sex, adolescence, relationships, family dynamics, and, at times, the often-mundane challenges of everyday life. He further cemented that reputation with Middlesex and The Marriage Plot, so when I heard that he'd finally be coming out with a short story collection, I was excited to see if he'd be able to capture this same kind of magic in short form.
The verdict? His stories, some of which were written as early as 1996, definitely demonstrate his talent for creating memorable characters and vivid dialogue. Some have a dreamier quality, while others are more moving and poignant. The challenge is, not all of the stories are that interesting, so while you can savor Eugenides' storytelling ability, you might find yourself wondering what the point was in some cases.
Among my favorites in the collection: "Baster," about a woman in her 40s who decides it's time to use a somewhat unorthodox way of getting pregnant, and how that decision affects a former boyfriend; "Complainers," which chronicles the decades-long relationship between two women, and how one responds when the other's infirmities start impacting her independence and her spirit; "Air Mail," the story of a young man's observations as he searches for enlightenment while traveling the world; "Find the Bad Guy," about a man trying to rebuild his marriage; and the title story, about a young girl's desire to escape her immigrant family's customs, so she makes an impetuous decision which turns a British physicist's life upside down.
At their best, Eugenides draws you into the stories from their very first sentence, creating tension and empathetic characters whose lives and situations you become invested in. When the stories didn't work for me, they just didn't quite capture my attention (one seemed like an excerpt from Middlesex or an early outtake), or I didn't quite understand what he was trying to say. Fortunately the good stories outnumbered the weaker ones, but some of the weaker ones made the collection feel a little bogged down.
Eugenides is one of those authors who tends to take a while between novels. I hope that since Fresh Complaint was mostly a collection of previously written material, we won't have to wait much longer for a new book. (The Marriage Plot was released in 2011.) Still, these stories are a nice way to tide you over until the next book comes along, if you're one of those who could use a Eugenides fix.
I like Jeffrey Eugenides. I enjoy his writing - I loved “MiddleSex”..... and I like “The Marriage Plot” much more than most in my local book club.
But - I’m so-so about these 10 short stories. I was taken in right away with the first story: “Complainers” — Della and Cathy are friends. Della is much older and married. Della’s husband runs into financial problems after making some risky investments which failed after he insisted that moving to Florida was the right move. Cathy was angry with Della for even listening to her husband make all their decisions- which created tension in their friendship. But when Della’s husband dies...she and Cathy get closer again. The story keeps moving - held my interest from beginning to end - every word.... from the assisted living quarters Della moves into - to her dementia- aging - friendship ....etc. I thought about both Cathy and Della a lot.....
and .....I enjoyed “Timeshare”...A father buys an old broken down resort in Florida that he’s going to re-design. Upscale - no students allowed “piss on them”.... with his bad back and all....
And other stories —”Early Music” - is pretty good ....”Find the Bad Boy” ... and the last story “Fresh Complaint”.... the title story....was also pretty good... But overall these stories are a mixed bag -and overall lukewarm.
*PERSONAL SHARE: (again) ... healing at home ... 2 more surgeries are scheduled beginning Nov. 3rd...I’m in no pain.... but due to the worse fires in California history.... as I look out the window this very moment - the sky is black... we smelled the fire in our house last night. The closest fire to us is 2 1/2 hours drive away... it seems everyone around here knows somebody who is lost their home. Our favorite get-a-way town- Calistoga is not on fire - but the entire town did need to evacuate... so we are watching closely.
Our county- Santa Clara county sent out alert warnings for people to stay inside as much as possible. Children are not going to school. No walking outdoors. The air quality is ‘that bad’ - It’s even worse in San Francisco. It’s really sad. We’ve never seen anything like this.
So many natural disasters lately... Mother Nature seems to be having an awful temper tantrum! My thoughts - and best hopes - to all those directly affected by these fires...wishing the members - here on Goodreads in the local vicinity of the fires are safe and well!
I’d really enjoyed the author’s novel Middlesex (where I discovered a dictionary’s worth of words I previously had no knowledge of) so the opportunity to read a bunch of short stories from the hand of this gifted scribbler was something I wasn’t going to pass up. All of these stories have been previously published in magazines in the period 1989 – 2013. I wouldn’t say there’s a common theme, though a sense of dissatisfaction with life or circumstance - a desire for something that is absent - seems to loom large in most of the tales.
All of the stories grabbed me quickly, were well paced and maintained sufficient energy to keep me interested throughout. I also liked the fact that there was a good dose of humour sprinkled around, even when the story was otherwise somewhat dark (e.g. Timeshare and The Bad Guy). These snippets of life are widely varied and although some grabbed me more than others I think each has something interesting to offer. My personal favourites are Early Music where a man suffering a personal financial crisis finds escape playing his clavicord (a keyboard on which he taps out ancient and obscure tunes) and Air Mail where a young man contemplates life whist suffering from a prolonged bout of diarrhea on a distant beach.
As always with these short, window views I was often left with the thought that I’d like to see more of a particular character or to have been allowed to see a scene play out to a broader conclusion. Well, the good news is that Eugenides has provided this opportunity – it appears that the character featured in Air Mail can be found in his novel The Marriage Plot. And that’s where I’ll be off to next.
My thanks to HarperCollins UK and NetGalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I was in Austin this past weekend doing a panel for Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump's America, but I had the first day of the festival all to myself. One of the big events I’d been dying to attend was the panel with Jeffrey Eugenides and Claire Messud. It’s a six hour drive from South Texas up to Austin, and I used the opportunity to finish listening to Fresh Complaint, a collection of stories written between 1988 to 2017. With the exception of the title story, most of the stories had been previously published in other places.
Early in the panel, Eugenides bemoaned a common description he’d been seeing in reviews of his book: it’s about depressed middle-aged men. “It’s not just about that,” he protested. “There’s a story about two older women, and there’s a story about a Pakistani teenager.”
Yeah. About that.
Most of the stories indeed feature depressed, aging men. And aside from a couple of stories, I thought the collection was mostly unremarkable. I often found myself drifting off and fighting to stay focused, but the last story, “Fresh Complaint,” brought me back to reality. In a book featuring a whole lot of white people, the sudden, specific inclusion of an Indian-American teenager named Prakrti demanded my attention. My antennas perked up, and not in a good way.
Prakrti, you see, is a seventeen-year-old who’s being pushed by her mother to start talking to the upstanding Indian guy who’s set to one day become her husband through an arranged marriage. But Prakrti is just a normal American girl. She doesn’t want an arranged marriage.
In a seemingly different timeline, a pretty girl in a college sweatshirt approaches a brilliant, middle-aged astrophysicist at a book signing. She manages to seduce the poor fool, and the two meet in a clumsy encounter in his hotel room. She changes her mind and leaves before he’s able to penetrate her, and he goes back to his married life in England, confused about the whole thing.
That girl is Prakrti, and she’s not nineteen. She’s still seventeen, and now she’s crying rape. Because clearly if she’s not a virgin — not by her choice, of course — no one will want her for an arranged marriage.
At this point in the audiobook, I literally started screaming “JEFFREY. WHAT THE FUCK?” in my car.
Yup. There’s one story featuring a woman of color, and her cultural traditions drive her to ruin the life of an innocent white man. If that ain’t tone deaf, especially considering the current #metoo backlash (“Everyone is crying rape now, UGH. What happened to innocent until proven guilty?”), I don’t know what is.
People of color do make the occasional appearance in other stories. In “Air Mail,” white dudebro backpackers visit Asia to do douchey things like find enlightenment, only to come down with a nasty case of dysentery. And the story Eugenides mentioned in his panel about the two older women? They were inspired to take charge of life by a novel about Native American women. Speaking of Native Americans, “The Oracular Vulva” features a doctor (the same one from Middlesex, apparently) who goes to study an isolated indigenous tribe where pedophilia is a valid thing. Really.
Basically, people of color exist in this book only to serve as catalysts for white people’s character arcs.
Here’s the thing: Eugenides has always been a white-male-gazey author. For the most part, I’ve been okay with that. (Full disclosure: I actually have signed copies of all of his books. Except this one, because fuck that.) The Marriage Plot works for me because he writes white privileged academia so well. And I have issues with The Virgin Suicides — the Lisbon sisters are flat, existing entirely in the boys’ male gaze — but even then, I’m kind of meh about the whole thing.
But Fresh Complaint? There’s no excuse. If this is his attempt at diversifying his writing, I’m totally okay with him ignoring brown people and sticking to depressed white men from now on.
“No one knew what the original music sounded like. You had to make an educated guess and do the best you could. (…) Sometimes you thought you heard the music, especially when you were young, and then you spent the rest of your life trying to reproduce the sound. Everybody’s life was early music.”
This collection of ten short stories covers almost three decades of Eugenides’ writing career, from 1988 to the present, and it is interesting to see how certain topics remain at the center of the author’s interest while his approach to them keeps shifting. “Fresh complaint” is a legal term, meaning that the victim of a crime, especially a sexual offense, reports the incident to someone in a position of trust, like a friend or a policeman, shortly after it happened. Clearly, fresh complaints are advantageous for criminal prosecution as possible evidence might otherwise get lost and memory tends to fade or distort the past. But Eugenides also applies the term in a more literal sense: His stories’ protagonists are all struggling with events that shaped their lives in unfortunate ways, and yes, some of them indulge in complaining. What further connects the short stories in this collection is that they contrast the idea a person has of him- or herself in her own mind with the outside reality or perception – and Eugenides excels at exploring these contrasting images, as he has already shown in Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides.
A backpacker (Mitchell Grammaticus from The Marriage Plot) on a tropical island in the Gulf of Thailand who is trying to find enlightenment through fasting (“Air Mail”);
A man who is hurt by the fact that his former girlfriend rather wants to have a child with a sperm donor than with him (“Baster”);
A clavichord player trying to provide for his family and deeply regretting the choices he made (“Early Music”);
An elderly man who loses his fortune and tries to start a new business so his sons can have an inheritance (“Timeshare”);
A man ruminating about his marriage that has fallen apart (“Find the Bad Guy”);
A sexologist (from Middlesex) whose major findings are contested on the same day he is awarded a lifetime achievement award and who travels to Irian Jaya (now Papua) to prove his critics wrong (“The Oracular Vulva”);
A divorced man trying to seduce a young backpacker who gets interrupted by an old friend, the backpacker’s travel companion, and a number of misperceptions (“Capricious Gardens”);
An editor giving up on his long-held beliefs and trying to defraud his boss in order to benefit his family (“Great Experiment”);
An American-Indian girl who is afraid she has to enter an arranged marriage and takes extreme measures (“Fresh Complaint”) -
all of these stories are full of telling details, little hints that give way to new associations and thoughts. The character depictions and the level of empathy Eugenides employs are simply stunning: Even when he writes about terrible people (and there are a lot of dubious characters in this book), the reader cannot help but feel with them.
It's rare that I read a collection of short stories and give it 5 stars. There's nearly always a dud story or two (or more) which bring the rating down. But Fresh Complaint is that rare exception: I loved every story. Okay there were some I loved more than others, but all of them created a unique world, with characters that were quirky and real, with wonderful writing, and nearly always with an ending that satisfied. Characters are transformed, regretful, and sneaky. My favourite is probably Fresh Complaint. I started to write what happened, but you know what, you should just go and read it. Read them all.
Με εξαίρεση την πρώτη και την τελευταία ιστορία, οι υπόλοιπες μου άφησαν χλιαρές εντυπώσεις . Μια μάλιστα την βρήκα ιδιαίτερα ενοχλητική. Κάποιες στιγμές φλερτάρα με την ιδέα να το αφήσω αλλά είπα να δώσω μια ευκαιρία σε έναν τοσο γνωστό συγγραφέα που δεν ειχα ξαναδιαβάσει. Συμπέρασμα :Το ένστικτο μας 9 στις 10 φορές εχει δίκιο.
These were undeniably well-written, but had an undercurrent of misogyny that I didn't like--it's the same feeling I get when reading Updike (see especially: Early Music, Baster, and Fresh Complaint). I also would have preferred if the stories were in date order.
This collection includes ten short stories, several of which have been previously published in various magazines, and two of which feature characters from Eugenides’ previous publications. It was difficult to figure out if there was an overarching theme to these stories … most of them are rather dark, bleak, in a middle class America type of way … I guess if I had to pick a theme, it would be hope or the lack thereof …
All the stories contain the author’s signature layers of deep and enriching detail … every sentence matters, every word reels you deeper into the significance of the narrators’ experiences … I would recommend not reading this book all in one sitting … because at the end of this book, I kinda wandered the halls of my house, scratching my head, questioning whether life was still worth pursuing …
But I don’t want to take away any of the power innate to these stories … there are so many memorable characters in this collection … Dr. Luce from Middlesex reappears, as does Mitchell from The Marriage Plot … but the characters I remember best are the ones mostly hinted at, the wives of the broken men whose faulty decisions shatter the marriages …
Here’s a breakdown of each story:
Complainers: Cathy and Della have been best friends for several years. When Della’s sons place her in assisted living because of her dementia, it is up to Cathy to remind Della of her strength and give Della hope that she will never be alone.
Air Mail: Mitchell is suffering from a massive amoebic infection on the shores of Thailand. As he suffers, he finds himself floating ever closer to the meaning of life.
Baster: Tomasina is almost forty and her biological click is ticking louder and louder. Her best friend is holding an insemination party as Tomasina’s last hope of getting pregnant.
Early Music: Rodney is stuck in the daily grind of being a Middle Class Man, with a wife, two kids, and a mortgage. The only link to his past dreams of being a musicologist is the clavichord he keeps in a small room in the house, but now even that could be taken away.
Timeshare: The narrator’s father is obsessed with renovating old resorts with the promise of turning a profit … he helplessly watches his father sink deeper and deeper into debt.
Find the Bad Guy: Charlie D and his green card wife Johanna are in the middle of a devastating divorce, and Charlie D is spiraling down a well of self-destruction.
The Oracular Vulva: Dr. Peter Luce’s career has plummeted and he is now having to conduct field research in Irina Jaya to support his hypotheses about the origin of gender identity.
Capricious Gardens: Sean, Malcolm, Annie, and Maria are trapped together in Sean’s country estate in Ireland, all left unfulfilled as they dine on artichokes fresh from Sean’s ex-wife’s dying garden.
Great Experiment: Kendall is another Middle Class Man with a wife, two kids, and a house that needs massive renovations. A coworker comes up with an embezzlement scheme, and Kendall joins him and momentarily becomes financially solvent.
Fresh Complaint: Prakrti is an Indian American teenager whose parents have arranged a marriage for her already. She becomes desperate to escape from the prospect of the marriage, and ruins other lives in the process.
Summarizing these stories does not bring justice to the black humor and the subtle emotions woven throughout the narrative … I would still recommend this short story collection, though, because they have so much to say about the modern experience of middle class America …
Been spoiled by Eugenides since pretty much all his novels are by now perennial classics (translation: you should have read em!). Middlesex is a treasure, and the more conventional Marriage Plot is fun af. Virgin Suicides is the perfect first novel--literary and tragic. Now. Not one of the ten tales in "Fresh Complaint" nears even seemingly to that past greatness. Therefore: write novel, Mr. Eugenides. Stick with it. These stories seem like engorges sketches that do not have an ounce of special magic...
2.5 stars. To anyone who knows my reading life, it’s not a secret that I usually don’t care for short stories. But Jeffrey Eugenides is such a good and interesting writer, that I couldn’t resist trying this collection out. I had my doubts going in - this is a collection of 10 short stories and all but two of them were published in various periodicals ranging from the 80s to a few years ago. Theoretically I think it’s a good idea, because it allows an artist to make money for work they’ve done throughout their career, but in a practical sense the end product is often uneven. That was definitely the case with this collection - Interpreter of Maladies it is not.
In several of the stories, an otherwise interesting situation becomes glib and borderline sexist when viewed through the eyes of the clueless male narrator - for example, in the story “Find the Bad Guy” the somewhat interesting tale of the rise and fall of a greencard marriage becomes unbearable when filtered through the corny dialect of the alcoholic macho Texan husband. The worst story of the collection “Baster” is basically unreadable, rendering men and women to their worst stereotypes.
There’s also two crossover stories - “The Oracular Vulva” featuring the doctor from Middlesex and “Air Mail” featuring Mitchell from The Marriage Plot. Both stories are so deeply inferior to the longer novels that they feel incredibly unsatisfying. During most of the collection, I could hardly even tell this was the same author. Punchline: If you’re interested in some Eugenides, skip right over this and go to one of the novels.
Come sempre, commentare e dare una valutazione ad una raccolta di racconti, é molto relativo. Difficile -se non impossibile- dare un giudizio omogeneo. I dieci racconti, pubblicati con il titolo Una cosa sull'amore, non si sottraggono certamente e a questa regola.
Il libro esce nel 2017 ma i vari racconti sono stati pubblicati su diverse riviste letterarie americane tra il 1996 ed il 2013. Importante tenere conto di questo arco di tempo perché sicuramente corrisponde ad una diversa maturazione della scrittura di Eugenides.
I racconti, tuttavia, non sono ordinati, in questo senso ma sicuramente rappresentano la varietà di sfumature di ciò che chiamiamo – a torto o ragione Amore.
Così ne Le brontolone la storia di due donne con un’inossidabile amicizia. Tra loro un libro che rispecchia il loro rapporto (Due donne) e che le unisce per affrontare assieme una situazione difficile..
Dall’amicizia all’amore per l’universo (” Posta aerea”), a quello per l’arte (“Musica barocca”), attraverso al desiderio di dare amore ad un figlio (“Siringa per ungere la carne”).
“Una cosa sull’amore” in realtà è tante cose e se dopo anni un matrimonio va a rotoli perchè ci si cala in ruoli distruttivi (“Trova il cattivo”) é solo allontanandosi si può sentire l’odore di casa propria. L’odore sì. Non ho sbagliato a scrivere. Perché ogni casa ha il proprio odore, il suo microsistema solo che quando ci viviamo non ci accorgiamo che alla fin fine c’è solo una cosa importante:
” Hanno scoperto una cosa sull’amore. Una cosa scientifica. Hanno fatto degli studi per capire che cosa tiene unite le coppie. Sapete che cos’è? Non è l’andare d’accordo. Non sono i soldi, o i figli, o una visione condivisa della vita. È avere cura uno dell’altro. Le piccole gentilezze reciproche. Passarsi la marmellata a colazione. Oppure, durante un viaggio a New York, tenersi per mano un istante nell’ascensore della metropolitana. Chiedere: “Come è andata la giornata?” facendo finta che ti interessi. È questa la roba che funziona.”
A brilliant short story writer Eugenides is not. These stories are variations on the theme of middle aged misogynistic white men being the horrible human beings that they always are. The author shines in the novel; much less so in short form. For shame.
I've loved Eugenides' novels--Middlesex is a lifetime fave--but reading this story collection on the heels of work like Difficult Women and Her Body and Other Parties, the stories just feel tame, safe, predictable, and somewhat short on meaning. The Gay and Marchado stories are so wild and raw and fearless and pull the very soul of of you for you to examine, while these are perfectly nice, well-written, mildly contemplative stories. Glad I read it, doubt I'll think of it again.
(1) 10 racconti scritti tra il 1988 e il 2017 usciti in buona parte sul New Yorker. (2) Per struttura sono simili a romanzi condensati senza finale e confermano la mia idea che Eugenides sia palesemente più un fondista ottocentesco piuttosto che uno che se la gioca al meglio sullo scatto breve. (3) In generale parlano di / desiderio di fuga / possibilità o meno di portarsi a letto qualcuno / avere un figlio / rendere migliore una vita precaria / mettersi nei guai e tirarsene fuori in qualche modo. (4) Eugenides ha una capacità notevole nel raccontare storie. Però non ho trovato prodezze particolari o qualcosa che citerei in una fantomatica antologia definitiva della short story. Sono racconti in buona parte piacevoli ma che sanno un po’ di compitino, di uno che non ha troppa voglia di sporcarsi le mani. Mi sarei aspettato qualcosa di più. (5) Bello il progetto grafico. [67/100]
Hanno scoperto una cosa sull’amore. Una cosa scientifica. Hanno fatto degli studi per capire che cosa tiene unite le coppie. Sapete che cos’è? Non è l’andare d’accordo. Non sono i soldi, o i figli, o una visione condivisa della vita. È avere cura uno dell’altro. Le piccole gentilezze reciproche. Passarsi la marmellata a colazione. Oppure, durante un viaggio a New York, tenersi per mano un istante nell’ascensore della metropolitana. Chiedere: “Come è andata la giornata?” facendo finta che ti interessi. È questa la roba che funziona.
Jeffrey Eugenides' new collection may be called "Fresh Complaint," but the stories themselves are less fresh and more retrospective. The book consists of an array of material ranging from 1988 to 2017, including "Air Mail," which was selected by Annie Proulx for the 1997 edition of "The Best American Short Stories" and "Capricious Gardens," which began as part of his master's thesis.
Better known for his long-form fiction, Eugenides is the author of three novels, including 1993's "The Virgin Suicides," which was made into a movie by Sofia Coppola, and 2011's "The Marriage Plot." He won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for "Middlesex," his novel about an intersex protagonist, Cal (sometimes "Callie") Stephanides, coming of age and grappling with the American Dream and gender identity in 20th century Detroit.
A couple of the 10 pieces here contain crossover characters from his longer works, notably "The Oracular Vulva," which features Dr. Peter Luce, the sexologist from "Middlesex" and the aforementioned "Air Mail," whose protagonist, Mitchell, also appears in "The Marriage Plot." Each story includes the year it was written at the end, instructively calling attention to the development of Eugenides' approaches and themes across the decades.
This collection contains flashes of what makes his longer work a pleasure to read — fraught situations, keenly observed behaviors, and senses of complicated humor and empathy — but on the whole, it feels uneven. In the opening story, "Complainers," about the lengthy friendship of two elderly women named Cathy and Della, he writes of Della's experience of reading: "Since her last reading, she's forgotten enough of the book that the story seems new again, yet familiar. Welcoming. But it's mostly the act itself that brings relief, the self-forgetfulness, the diving and plunging into other lives." One could do worse in terms of an explanation of the appeal of fiction, yet too few of these stories offer that sense of depth, skating instead on the surfaces of the lives they depict.
"Baster," for instance, offers a glib take on a somewhat hackneyed situation: the woman who seemingly has it all — "a great job as an assistant producer of CBS Evening News with Dan Rather … a terrific, adult-size apartment on Hudson Street … good looks, mostly intact … an IRA kicked up to $175,000" — but who "wanted a baby." In the absence of a husband, as the title suggests, she artificially inseminates herself. But Eugenides holds this story and so many others at arm's length, filtering it through the sexist first-person narration of Wally Mars, an ex-boyfriend who asserts that "Men like being objectified."
Similarly, in "Find the Bad Guy," he takes on the cliched absurdity of a green card marriage, telling the story from the perspective of the husband, originally from Michigan, but who speaks in a corny pseudo-Texan style. "Got to talking this way on account of living down here for so long," he clunkily explains, interspersing the tale with cartoonish sentences that angle for cheap laughs: "I look up at my house and cogitate some — I don't rightly want to say what about."
In the strongest stories, particularly "Timeshare" and "Capricious Gardens," Eugenides comes across as bemused by — but not mocking or contemptuous of — his characters. In too many others, his tone condescends and dismisses, as when he writes of the aging hipster protagonist of "Great Experiment" that "Kendall had never wanted to live like his parents. That had been the whole idea, the lofty rationale behind the snow-globe collection and the flea market eyewear."
Hit or miss as the stories are, they do contain some gems of insight, as when the married Matthew, on a college campus to give a physics lecture, decides to reply to a flirtatious text from an underage girl and thinks, "It was like skiing. Like the moment when, at the summit, you first lean downhill and gravity takes hold, sending you flying." Or when the largely odious Wally Mars notes: "But in eliminating some regrets you create others." One regrets this collection's lack of consistency, but it is worth a read as one waits for Eugenides' next novel.
The best is "Whiners". Della (88 years old) and Katie (twenty years younger) have been friends for longer than you live, most of this time rereading together the book "Two Old Women" about Indian women who were abandoned by their nomadic tribe to die, instead of that survivors established a joint life, hunting, fishing, gathering. And now, when Della with progressive alzheimer's is moved by her sons to a squalid nursing home, Katie comes to her with the same book. But it also brings something much more important. A wonderful story. Sad, tender, bitter.
I had no doubt that Eugenides was a great master from the first page I read from him. But it is one thing to understand "from the mind", another is to accept with all your being. to feel the events as happening to you. It didn't work out with the novels, but with some stories - yes.
В зеркале своем отыщи виноватого Делла ощущает непреодолимое желание выбраться. Иди. Не останавливайся. Возможно, она встретит там кого-то. Например, друга. С малой прозой Джеффри Евгенидеса мне повезло больше, чем с романами. С крупными его формами бывало чувство погружения в глубоко чуждую, нездоровую и неопрятную психику. в которой придется теперь до конца барахтаться. У рассказов то неоспоримое достоинство, что утягивают они не так глубоко и если в каком-то пространстве совсем неуютно, нужно только потерпеть - скоро все закончится.
Справедливости ради, таких в сборнике немного. Два, совсем не моих, "Прорицание вульвы" - в духе "Эйфории" Лили Кинг, об антропологе, который считает себя совершенно свободным от предрассудков, но в племени с глубоко чуждыми европейской культуре сексуально-эротическими привычками, всеми силами старается оградить себя от инициации. И "Старинная музыка" - безнадежная история семьи неудачников, осаждаемых коллекторами, а казалось, такие надежды подавали.
Титульный рассказ, где герой переживает кризис середины жизни, много пьет, изменяет жене с няней и не находит ничего лучше. чем рассказать ей об этом на сеансе семейной терапии. А жена не находит ничего лучше, чем выставить его из дома. добившись судебного запрета на приближение. То есть, прощать здесь не принято? Стоит раз оступиться, и можешь ставить на себе крест? С "Найти виноватого" я пережила примерно то же, что с антропологической историей - бесполезный опыт.
"Таймшер" отец рассказчика на старости лет пускается в безумные финансовые авантюры со спекуляцией недвижимостью и уже разорен, но, судя по всему, чувствует себя совсем недурно. "Прихотливые сады" мужик подхватывает хорошенькую автостопщицу, но к ней прилагается страшная подружка, которая все обламывает и убивает сценарий соблазнения при помощи кости Блаженного Августина. "Спринцовка" - биологические часики тикают но героиня, пока не готовая к ЭКО, решается на рискованный эксперимент: смешать семя трех мужчин, собранное на специально устроенной вечеринке и оплодотворить себя этим прибором.
Моя тройка лидеров по возрастающей. Третье место "Воздушная почта", парень приезжает в Индию, подхватывает амебную дизентерию, морит себя голодом, попутно достигая духовного просветления, и все это время пишет воображаемые письма родителям, которые места себе не находят от тревоги за него. Второе -"По свежим следам" - умненькую американку индийского происхождения, которая собирается в колледж, родня пытается выдать замуж за индийца. В отчаянии девушка делает то, чего делать ни при каких обстоятельствах не следует.
Лучшее - "Нытики". Делла (88 лет) и Кэти (двадцатью годами моложе) дружат дольше, чем вы живете, большую часть этого времени перечитывая вместе книгу "Две старухи" об индианках, брошенных своим откочевавшим племенем умирать, вместо этого выживших, наладивших совместный быт, охоту, рыбалку, собирательство. И сейчас, когда Делла с прогрессирующим альцгеймером перевезена сыновьями в убогий дом престарелых, Кэти приезжает к ней с той же книгой. Но привозит и что-то, куда более важное. Чудесный рассказ. Грустный, нежный, горький.
В том, что Евгенидес большой мастер, не сомневалась с первой прочитанной у него страницы. Но одно дело понимать "от ума", другое - принимать всем естеством. ощущать событ��я как происходящие с тобой. С романами не получилось, с некоторыми рассказами - да.
Desperdigadas a lo largo de 30 años de carrera, las diez historias recogidas en Denuncia inmediata constituyen un cuerpo heterogéneo que da buena cuenta de la capacidad de Eugenides para profundizar en la sórdida complejidad del ser humano.
En «Quejas», relato que abre la colección, Eugenides disecciona la entrañable relación de Cathy y Della, dos amigas unidas por la literatura y el mal gusto a la hora de escoger marido que se verán reflejadas en una leyenda atabascana sobre mujeres abandonadas por su tribu. En «Correo aéreo», un joven llamado Mitchell registra en tono entre alucinatorio y místico sus aventuras en una isla indonesia mientras lo consume una agresiva diarrea. En «Jeringa de cocina», probablemente uno de los relatos más impactantes y maquiavélicos de Denuncia inmediata, una mujer entrada en la cuarentena se dispone a recolectar esperma de sus exnovios con el fin de quedarse embarazada. «Música antigua» narra las hazañas de un clavicordista frustrado que trata por todos los medios de compaginar la práctica del instrumento con las agobiantes e interminables responsabilidades familiares mientras las presiones económicas comienzan a treparle por el cuello.
En «La vulva oracular», donde Eugenides siembra ideas que acabarían germinando en la aclamada Middlesex, un eminente sexólogo —conocido principalmente por sus revolucionarios estudios en materia de género— se une a un grupo de expedicionarios que pretende estudiar las insólitas costumbres sexuales de una remota comunidad indígena. En «Huertos caprichosos», dos chicas que se encuentran en Irlanda de vacaciones acaban alojándose en una casa rural con un par de desconocidos, una pareja de amigos recién divorciados que acusarán la elevada carga de erotismo y tensión sexual presentes en el relato. Con «Magno Experimento», publicado en pleno estallido de la crisis económica de 2008, Jeffrey Eugenides pone a prueba la resistencia de la honradez y los buenos propósitos en un hábitat poblado por todo tipo de depredadores bursátiles. Sin duda, la catadura moral de los personajes es una variable que Eugenides prefiere observar en situaciones límite. Este postulado alcanza su máxima expresión en «Denuncia inmediata», cuando una ambiciosa adolescente de origen indio urde una retorcida trama para escapar de un matrimonio concertado, aunque ello suponga arruinar la vida de otra persona.
De premisa más o menos llamativa, mejor o peor resueltas, estas diez historias confirman a Jeffrey Eugenides como uno de los mejores analistas de la sociedad norteamericana contemporánea. Meticuloso y concienzudo tanto en la descripción como en la exploración de los personajes, Eugenides ahonda en el vacío existencial de la clase media estadounidense, promovido en gran parte por una absoluta carencia de escrúpulos y un ímpetu casi suicida por medrar en la esfera financiera. Los personajes que habitan las páginas de Denuncia inmediata quedan frecuentemente aplastados por el peso de las expectativas ajenas o incluso de las propias. La consecución de sus metas va emparejada al regusto amargo de no haber logrado más que una victoria pírrica. Eugenides aprovecha tales circunstancias para plantear candentes debates sobre cuestiones tan pertinentes como incómodas y reflexionar asimismo en sus diversas ramificaciones. A veces, la moraleja queda sepultada en algún punto intermedio del relato, provocando cierto aire de inconcreción o falta de contundencia. No obstante, esto no impide en ningún momento disfrutar del fenomenal regreso de Eugenides al terreno de juego. Su vuelta, aunque lejos de apoteósica, consigue calmar la sed de sus admiradores durante unos períodos de sequía que, esperemos, sean cada vez menos longevos.
Wow. Jeffrey Eugenides deserves all the accolades typically heaped on Pulitzer Prize winners. In my reading journeys, I've often disagreed with these book jacket platitudes. In fact, I've found candidates for the prize usually better and more skilled writers than the winners, but in "Fresh Complaint," we find a scribe truly worth all the hype. This is a compendium of Eugenides's work spanning three decades, and it shows his growth as a writer; each story is a fresh world to step into, with characters as vibrant and well-drawn as any in a great character-driven novel. The writing itself is excellent, so that even a decades-old story doesn't feel dated, and the characters and their strange circumstances feel immediate and important. He doesn't shy away from uncomfortable topics in his writing, whether it's incest and sexual identity issues as in his Pulitzer-winner "Middlesex," or the sexual manipulations of teenage girls as in the title story of this book, Eugenides is a skilled-enough writer that he makes problems seem realistic without overwhelming readers with overly dark overtones, and he even makes you laugh in the middle of stories where seriousness isn't questioned. Many books of short stories are superb downers -- I've read very few that are uplifting or really so richly researched that you can appreciate the writer's desire to get all the details right -- Eugenides does. This is a great read if you like reading about characters of all ages, ethnicities and problems of modern life in America.
This is a wonderful collection of short stories from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jeffrey Eugenides. I had not read anything by this writer and was surprised he wrote The Virgin Suicides as I felt I should have known this already. I was not surprised by the quality of the writing which oozes warmth and compassion on each page. He is a gifted storyteller who can take routine events and create lasting situations that reflect life in all its varied turns. I liked Air Mail for where it took the reader. Early Music moved me as well and Timeshare brought a smile to my lips. But truth be told I enjoyed all the stories and the rich language weaving these memorable tales. This is the benefit of short stories they can be about subjects you would not normally look at or by new authors to you. In this way it broadens your opinions and literary influences. As I result I know I will seek out The Virgin Suicides.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
N-am ce să adaug de la mine ca să fac să arate mai bine decât arată deja o colecție de povestiri de cinci stele. Totul e dozat până-n pragul perfecțiunii - dialoguri, adâncimea caracterelor. Un hohot mut de râs și o satisfacție abia ascunsă par să fi pus stăpânire pe autor cât timp a scris despre acești sărmani cu duhul ghinioniști.
Eugenides este unul dintre alter ego-urile mele americane (alături de P. Roth și alți câțiva).
Moderat incorect politic, sarcastic și, deci, destul de incomod, ireverențios - probabil din cauza asta stârnește Eugenides (ca și Roth) o anumită respingere (reținere) printre cititorii americani timorați de poliția gândirii.
Jeffrey Eugenides' short story collection features a variety of stories written across the course of his career, many featured earlier in various publications in previous forms. From the sperm switching antics of "Baster" to the complications of nationality and marriage in "Fresh Complaint" to money and morality in "Great Experiment," we're treated to Eugenides' usual excellent writing and perspective on characters and life.
I often skip story collections, as I tend to feel a loss with them, as if the tale is unfinished, and I just want more details about each character and their motivations and end-state. I picked up FRESH COMPLAINT based solely on my love for Eugenides (Middlesex is an all-time favorite). I won't lie: I still felt that same unfinished feeling at the end of most of the stories. Clearly I just am meant more for long-form fiction. I also hadn't realized when I picked up the book that most of the stories were previously published, but luckily I am not usually reading The New Yorker and such, so I hadn't come across any of these previously.
One of the most exciting discoveries for me was, upon completing "Baster," confirming that it was indeed the premise for the silly film "The Switch" with Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston that is an incredibly guilty pleasure of mine. The story differs from the film, but you can clearly see how it's the base, and it's quite enjoyable.
Another favorite of mine was "Fresh Complaint," the final story in the collection, and clearly where it gets its title. We meet a young woman, Prakrtri, who is struggling with the fact that her family is trying to arrange a marriage for her, and a college professor who is traveling for work. How their paths cross is quite interesting. It's detailed, touching, and yet disturbing.
My other favorite was "Great Experiment" featuring an editor, Kendall, in his mid-thirties. He's comparing himself (unfavorably) to his peers, as he struggles financially in his job and resentfully watches his wealthy boss live well while not even providing Kendall health insurance. The story takes an interesting turn, and, as with much of Eugenides work, seems to have a greater message for us.
Overall, I didn't enjoy this as much as an Eugenides novel, because there just isn't the time to fall for his nuanced characters. I still enjoyed many of the stories and realize I probably gravitated toward "Fresh Complaint" and "Great Experiment" because they were some of the longer tales in the collection. If you like Eugenides, you may want to pick up this collection (provided you haven't already read the stories elsewhere). If you haven't read him in any form, go find Middlesex instead. 3.5 stars.
4.5 Jeffrey Eugenides is back! Not only is he ahead of schedule, but he brought us short stories.
This is a wonderful collection that showcases his exquisite writing again and again. Although his last two books were tomes, his impeccable character development certainly doesn’t need many pages to bring his subjects to life.
Fresh Complaint is made up of ten short stories over about 300 pages. They take place between the 1980s and present day, all around the world. There wasn’t a bad one in the bunch, though of course there were standouts, my favorites being Complainers, a story of the friendship between two aging women, and Capricious Gardens, where four travelers’ worlds intersect for an evening in Ireland. The title story would probably round off my Top 3.
Short stories aren’t my medium of choice, so perhaps that’s what keeps me from giving this a 5-star rating. He also re-visited some characters and themes from his previous works, and while the recognition was fun, I didn’t quite see the point of spending precious pages on that.
For loyal fans of Eugenides, this will fill your hearts and heads with its loveliness. For those who loved Middlesex but didn't love the The Marriage Plot, I urge you to come back.
Maybe I just don't find a collection of short stories as satisfying as a novel, but I found this grossly underwhelming. I ADORED all 3 of Eugenides's other books--Middlesex is one of my top 5 all time fave books! But Fresh Complaint didn't do it for me the way I expected it to. Still interesting, and good writing, but just not as compelling...*sigh*