Bream Gives Me Hiccups (a sort of book review)

Jesse Eisenberg wrote a collection of short stories, and the the response has been mostly positive. But there are those who have been less than kind. Some view Eisenberg as a dilettante, and others as an interloper. It’s like when Bruce Willis tried to be a musician, or when Gwyneth Paltrow does anything.

The Washington Post review of Bream Gives Me Hiccups is less of a hatchet job, and more of Willem Black shouting to the heavens, “When do I get to see the sailboat!?” I cannot criticize this attitude, for it is my default mode. I don’t want to come across as a projectionist, but it sounds like someone has shoeboxes filled with rejection letters from publishers, and a wall covered in participation ribbons, and it just doesn’t add up.

I don’t know what this guy is complaining about. He’s writing book reviews for one of the most famous newspapers in the world (the one that brought down a US president, for Pete’s sake). I’m a dude who is typing this on a bootleg Blackberry that doesn’t even have the word “dilettante” in its autocorrect. I had to look it up in an actual dictionary!

Why can’t people be more than one thing? It seems like everyone has multiple jobs just to get by. Michelangelo was a painter and a sculptor; that’s two things. Lots of writers are also alcoholics, both of which are time consuming activities.

Ben Affleck directing the next Batman movie while also playing the title role is not taking a job from Lars von Trier. Nor Rob Schneider, for that matter. He has Adam Sandler subsidizing him, anyway. Do you think Sandler claims Schneider as a dependent on his tax returns?

Among those who gave Bream Gives Me Hiccups a favorable review are some people who work for NPR. Which is funny, since Eisenberg tends to poke fun at the sort of people who listen to public radio: wealthy liberals. But I am sure they didn’t get the jokes, for they tend to be a humor-free lot. To be fair, I find that to be true of rich people in general.

And critics.

And now that the hyperbolic b.s. is over: on with the review.

I agree with those who say the best part of Bream Gives Me Hiccups is “Restaurant Reviews From a Privileged Nine-Year-Old.” It’s sounds like it’s all there in the title, but there’s more to it. The kid’s parents are divorced, and he lives with his mom, who is not the most stable person ever. So, it’s only fitting that she’ll be played by Parker Posey in the TV version.

The unnamed nine-year-old is smart, but has a lot to learn. This is evident during a trip to Fuddruckers. It’s one of those stories that’s funny because the reader knows what is going on, but the narrator is clueless.

I like Eisenberg’s sense of humor. He has a strong grasp of the silly and absurd. For example, one story is called “Marv Albert is My Therapist.” And yes, I could hear Albert’s voice in my head as I read long. But I have been watching the Olympics, so it’s hard to avoid hearing him, anyway.

Some other entries feel like they could go off the rails at any second, while others do. That’s the thing about Bream Gives Me Hiccups: it’s fun. Jesse Eisenberg isn’t trying to change the world, or tell you how to live your life. And best of all: no harmonica solos.

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