Monday, May 11, 2015

Book Review: "Bream Gives Me Hiccups" by Jesse Eisenberg

Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

I tend to be dubious when I come across a book written by an actor. It's not that every actor is a bad writer; in fact, I've read some well-written books authored by actors, such as Ethan Hawke, Meg Tilly, and Lauren Graham. But of course, for every actor deserving of a book deal, there are many whose books are published only on the strength of their name and not any display of writing skill. (Cough, James Franco, cough.)

When I saw a friend had raved about Jesse Eisenberg's collection of stories, Bream Gives Me Hiccups, I was definitely intrigued. I'm a big fan of his acting and hoped that his wry, sarcastic sense of humor I've seen displayed in interviews would shine through. I also hoped that a book being touted as hysterically funny actually lived up to that billing.

I'm pleased to say Eisenberg succeeded on both fronts. This book is composed of a number of stories and humorous anecdotes which take different forms—text messages, email conversations, letters, conversations—and many made me laugh out loud. From the hilarious and touching title story, in which a nine-year-old boy reviews meals he has in different locations, many with his troubled mother, to an email conversation between a dating couple which gets hijacked by his sister, who is a scholar of the Bosnian genocide, some of these stories are laugh-out-loud funny and many others make you chuckle and shake your head at Eisenberg's ingenuity. And more than a few times, I could hear his voice coming through the narration, which added an extra layer of depth and humor.

In addition to the two stories I mentioned above, some of my favorites in this collection included (and many of the titles say all that needs to be said about the stories themselves): "My Prescription Information Pamphlets as Written by My Father"; "Carmelo Anthony and I Debrief Our Friends after a Pickup Game at the YMCA"; "If She Ran Into Me Now," in which a man is waiting for a glimpse of an ex-girlfriend; and "A Bully Does His Research," which I found perhaps a little too short.

Not every story works; there are times when Eisenberg goes for one more laugh where he could have held back, and times when the stories are more one-liner than plot, but even those are enjoyable in their own way. This was a quick, fun read, and I look forward to not only seeing more of his movies (he's playing Lex Luthor, y'all), but reading more of his books in the future. Perhaps he can pave the way for more actors with writing talent being published instead of those without it.

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