I picked this up because I thought it would be a good audiobook to have while in Hawaii. I knew I wasn’t going to get a lot of time to read, so a smaller book of short stories or essays seemed like the perfect choice. Unfortunately I started it on a dog walk a couple of days before leaving and managed to finished it before we even stepped on a plane.
I like Jesse Eisenberg in his film roles, and he seems like a funny and smart guy in the few interviews I’ve seen, so I figured why not give this a try. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was happily surprised to find a mix between Woody Allen and David Sedaris, and it was hilarious from start to finish.
There’s a wide mix of topics in this, as well as a wide mix of formats. The title story, Bream Gives Me Hiccups: Restaurant Reviews from a Privileged Nine-Year Old, follows a boy writing reviews of the restaurants his newly separated mother drags him to, and the reviews act as a journal for his life. Also written in the form of letters is My Roommate Stole my Ramen, which is a series of letters from a neurotic university freshmen to her high school Councillor, and An email exchange with my first girlfriend, which at a certain point is taken over by my older sister, a college student studying the Bosnian genocide, which is just what the title says (as with many of these stories).
Some of these can almost be thought of as short skits, particularly when listened to on audiobook. Men and Dancing is a hilarious selection of conversations throughout history of people trying to get men, who don’t want to dance, to dance. This is something with which I easily relate. A bully does his research shows the devastation a bully could cause if they just did a bit of personal research before making fun of someone. Alexander Graham Bell’s first five phone calls details his awkward conversations about trying to call a girl, after giving her the world’s third phone.
“Hey Watson, guess who? Yeah, it’s me, it’s Aleck. How’d you know? But I was doing a voice!
There are so many stories in here that I just loved, many I haven’t even mentioned. Even just the story titles in this are hilarious. Many of the pieces in this collection have been published before, in The New Yorker or McSweeney’s, so I thought I’d just list the contents here and link to the articles that came up on a quick search:
- I. Bream gives me hiccups: restaurant reviews from a privileged nine-year-old
- II. Family
- My little sister texts me with her problems
- Separation anxiety sleepaway
- My mother explains the ballet to me
- An email exchange with my first girlfriend, which at a certain point is taken over by my older sister, a college student studying the Bosnian genocide
- My prescription information pamphlets as written by my father
- My nephew has some questions
- III. History
- Men and dancing
- Final conversation at Pompeii
- Alexander Graham Bell’s first five phone calls
- Marxist-Socialist jokes
- IV. My roommate stole my ramen: letters from a frustrated freshman
- V. Dating
- A post-gender-normative man tries to pick up a woman at a bar
- A post-gender-normative woman tries to pick up a man at a bar
- A guy on acid tries to pick up a woman at a bar
- A lifelong teatotaler, embarrassed by his own sobriety, tries to pick up a woman at a bar
- VI. Sports
- Marv Alpert is my therapist
- Carmelo Anthony and I debrief our friends after a pickup game at the YMCA
- A marriage counselor tries to heckle at a Knicks game
- VII. Self Help
- Smiling tricks your brain into thinking it’s happy
- If she ran into me now
- A bully does his research
- VIII. Language
- Nick Garrett’s review of Rachel Lowenstein’s new book, Getting away
- A short story written with thought-to-text technology
- If I was fluent in…
- My spam plays hard to get
- Manageable tongue twisters
- IX. We only have time for one more
- We only have time for one more
Definitely give a few of the linked articles a try, and pick this up if those work for you. I was really blown away by how much I enjoyed this, and his narration on the audiobook (helped by his sister and a few others) was fantastic. I have a feeling he’ll be publishing a few of these collections in the course of his career, so I’ll be happily picking up the next one that’s released.