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The Collected Stories

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  686 ratings  ·  70 reviews
Since 1986 with the publication of her first story collection, Deborah Eisenberg has devoted herself to writing “exquisitely distilled stories” which “present an unusually distinctive portrait of contemporary American life” to quote the MacArthur Foundation. This one volume brings together Transactions in a Foreign Currency (1986), Under the 82nd Airborne (1992), All Aroun ...more
Paperback, 980 pages
Published March 30th 2010 by Picador USA (first published September 16th 2008)
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Sep 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: someone isn't your friend because they happen to be standing next to you
Recommended to Mariel by: disassembling on contact with oxygen
And all around Patty’s little bed circled the terror that perhaps those former shimmering lures had not been signs of some central imperative but were instead the snares of a mocking siren; that perhaps she was soon to be dashed, like Mrs. Jorgenson, against the rocks (so to speak) of the hall floor. from ‘A Cautionary Tale’

I would be reading some of these stories feeling like I wouldn’t mind if I could just go on like that with them. But some other thing I had to do would ruin that best kind of
Sara Batkie
I spread my reading of this out over five months, during which many things happened: I finished grad school, got my first real job, got dumped, got my first story published. Deborah Eisenberg was a particularly apropos constant during this tumultuous period. I'm not sure there's a more empathetic author working in fiction today. Reading her is like sitting down with your smarter, funnier friend. I took breaks for novels and for my own writing, but I always made time to return to her, and I'm gla ...more
Mar 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
One hardly knows how to describe a Deborah Eisenberg story, let alone this volume which brings together all five of her collections under a single cover. Adjectives like "exhilarating" or "dazzling" feel too light, too insubstantial to give the sense of the power and precision of her work. Others like "genius" have been so over used as to become common as crab grass and as such would feel like an insult to a writer who can fairly and without hyperbole be described as perhaps the best currently a ...more
Apr 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
As the title makes clear, this is a compendium of all four of Eisenberg's previously published volumes of stories. As such, it gives us, under one cover, the evolution of a particular and exquisite talent, though one that is not, I am sure, to everyone's taste. When she first published, Eisenberg was bucking the publishing tide. Minimalism and "K-Mart realism" were in the ascendant, Raymond Carver was short story royalty, and his imitators--or the imitators of what Gordon Lish did to his stories ...more
Aug 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
One of the best story collections I've ever read. It really is hard to find any collection where more than 50% of the stories are solid, but this just blew my mind. Do not come to these stories if you are looking for an epiphany or revelations. Eisenberg disagrees with such endings as, to her, they are unrealistic. Every story is a gem--a wonder. My favorite story is "Some Other, Better Otto" which had me close to tears several times, and really great character examinations.

I'm so glad I found
Katherine Govier
Sep 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: put-it-aside

I love this book. I'm reading it little by little, over the last few months. The prose is so crisp and clean. The stories are unique; no one else writes like this. Very Manhattan, but not showy. I'll write more later.
Oct 20, 2019 marked it as to-read
Shelves: long-stories
"Long Stories," a shelf of anthologies I'm erratically working through.
"Transactions in a Foreign Currency"
Refined, savvy prose channeled through the narrow straits of intimate relationships and around the sandbars of self-development. Borderline lyrical. Several central characters are drawn from the sophisticated and well-to-do academic/artistic milieu, almost parodying Henry James in the pursuit of prototypes unsullied by banal concerns and therefore free to be pure
Megan Hansen
Mar 18, 2010 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book, but the writing style felt too tedious. I can’t put my finger on it, some of the storied had good concepts, I just couldn’t get into it. Plus the sheer size of the book was overwhelming!
Mar 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Writers and readers of literary fiction
Skip the first set of stories, which are early efforts and tend to blend all together. But once you get to the second set, you realize almost instantly that Deborah Eisenberg is a special talent. The dialogue is fantastic. The word choice is spot on and the rhythm of the sentences is like good music. I can't say that I like the subject matter very much - Eisenberg is almost exclusively concerned with the lives of rather feckless women tenuously tied to rather creepy men - but I do love the writi ...more
Evan Gorzeman
Aug 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
the master
Dec 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
The majority of this collection of short stories evoked the feeling in me of being a kid and having to sit at the dinner table with a group of adults, such as my extended family, and having to listen to their inane chit-chat while politely sitting still and pretending to care even though I would much rather do anything else at all. It was so banal, included way too many over-privileged soliloquies and most of it was just boring. I don't know why I finished it tbh. Maybe because I didn't hate it, ...more
Mar 23, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaways
I'd been meaning to read Twilight of the Superheroes ever since The Millions called it one of the best books of the millennium. So, when I saw this four-in-one (including TOTS) tome listed as a Goodreads giveaway, I threw caution to the wind and signed up. Be careful what you wish for!

Actually, I'm very happy that Goodreads picked me and that this was my exposure to Eisenberg, since I personally thought that TOTS was one of the weaker sets of stories in this collection. I'd give Transactions in
Jul 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction


Lyle is stretched out on a yoga mat that Nathaniel once bought in preparation for a romance (as yet manqué) with a prettily tattooed yoga reached…
Manqué: short of or frustrated in the fulfillment of one's aspirations or talents.



Once in a while, though---it happened sometimes when she encounter one of them unexpectedly---Lynnie would see them as they had been. For an instant their sleeping tower would flash, but then their dimmed present selves might greet Lyn
Matt Middlebrook
Sep 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
I was not sure whether I should give this book 3 or 4 stars, but I fell to 4. I had never heard or nor read Deborah Eisenberg until this collection came out which received rave reviews (as well as the PEN/Faulkner Award). I love short stories, love, love, love them. However, this is a collection of all of her works (four collections), and it clocks in at 980 pages. It is a workout. And I must say that I think I would have appreciated her works if I had bitten it off in smaller chunks instead of ...more
Mar 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
(Disclosure: This book was received free via the First-Reads program, with the understanding that I might read and review it.)

Not only "the collected stories", these are the complete stories of Deborah Eisenberg - four books in one very massive tome. This is a book to pick up and put down, read a story or two, go onto something lighter or maybe less introspective, and then come back to it when you have a hungering for a short visit to a deep place. I say deep, because no matter how much humor Ei
Carmen Petaccio
Jul 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
There are certainly diminishing returns as the book progresses, if only for the unfair brilliance of the first two collections. By the last story I had resolved to a four star rating, and then I read the below paragraph three pages from the end and thought, oh, right, that is the entirety of everything, game over.

"Looking at a painting takes a certain composure, a certain resolve, but when you really do look at one it can be like a door swinging open, a sensation, however brief, of vaulting free
Mandy E
Apr 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
I have a longer review posted on my blog ( if anyone is interested... but for now, some favorite quotes:

(from 'twilight of the superheroes' p795):
"'Fifty percent of respondents say that the event taking place is not occurring,' Madison says, 'The other fifty percent remain undecided. Clearly the truth lies somewhere in between.'"

(from 'like it or not' p875)
"'It's a wonder we can understand anything at all about ourselves...We can't even see our own kidneys.'"

Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Really wonderful, really dense... it took me what, a month to read? Such a fine-tuned literary prism onto the world, you read it and wonder, Why didn't I think of that?

It's funny because I just loved Twilight of the Superheroes when it first came out, but attached to the other collections that came before, it pales a little. The early stuff is so immediate. Anyway, more later... stay tuned.
Mar 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I was surprised when this book came by how big it was. It was a very enjoyable read however even though it was long. I really liked this collection these stories were very well written and funny and smart at times. I have never heard of Deborah Eisenberg before but now I have and I have to say I am a fan now!
Apr 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: short-stories
(2.4/5.0) Boooo. She's married to Wallace Shawn, and these stories are like whinier, less interesting versions of My Dinner with Andre. They have that tiring New York sense of humor that needs to get put to sleep. ...more
Mar 14, 2010 marked it as to-read
This looks interesting to me
Sarah Johnson
Feb 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Amazing stories. Unable to put them down until about under the 82nd airborne. Something gave way not in a good way. Will have to push through to other sections. Don't want to give up on this one. ...more
Judith Podell
Mar 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Lorrie Moore + Don DeLillo, perhaps? Add Jean Rhys, without the personal demons. Lots of wit and compassion for the underdog.

Jay Beasley
Jul 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The best short story writer alive today. "Some Other, Better Otto" is perfect. ...more
Christine Henneberg
May 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the best short story writers I've ever read. On the level of Alice Munro or Lucia Berlin. It took me 10 months to read this entire collection--in part because I started it shortly before the birth of my second baby. (Short stories are terrific while awaiting labor because you don't have to worry about finishing a whole novel before the baby comes.) But also in part because these stories are just so intensely good, it's hard to consume them in any way other than slow, measured bites. Like ...more
Krizia Anna
Nov 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Well I read one story and that's "The Girl Who Left Her Socks on the Floor". It was more than a girl leaving her socks on the floor, it was so much more. I guess the problem I have with short stories is that they are too short. I love getting to know about the characters. I like taking my time. This is a 10-minute read so plus for that. ...more
Barbara Lachenbruch
Awesome writer. Somehow, although so many of the characters seemed like airheads, they weren't in the end. I also felt a lot of personal connection with many of the stories because I was in Guatemal in the Peace Corps in the early 80's, which seemed close to the place and time that many of the stories were set. ...more
Sapna  Kumar
Sep 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Reminiscient of Amy Hempel or Lorrie Moore, but some stories are more slice of life in nature with little resolve. It's no big whoop that the stories don't all wrap up in neat little bows. Super impressed by the writer's prolific efforts. ...more
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Feb 10, 2018 rated it liked it
I read one of the short story collections compiled in the book and didn't feel the need to read more. They were ok. ...more
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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

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