A friend had gifted me Jesse Eisenberg’s Bream Gives Me Hiccups. “Mansour, you need to write your reviews like Jesse does in his book.” I was curious and so spent last night reading up on it. It’s a series of short stories, and unfortunately, by the end of the book, the humor factor dies down.
It starts off brilliantly though. Narrated through the eyes of a privileged nine-year-old boy, whose mother takes him to different dining experiences, the young boy shares his candid opinions, about the food he eats as well as of his mother, who’s divorced. They go to a Japanese restaurant, an ashram, TCBY, Fuddruckers, his school cafeteria among other places. Eisenberg infuses enough wit and humor into the mind of a nine-year-old that some moments actually had me laugh out loud.
The rest of the book covers different chapters around Family, Dating, Sports, Self Help and Language. In between these short stories, there is a larger story, that involves a college student writing letters about his roommate who stole his ramen (by this time, i was losing interest).
However, it is in the short stories that Eisenberg excels.
In one story, that depicts an email exchange between a guy and a girl, the guy suspects the girl of cheating on him. So the guy’s sister, who happens to be studying the Bosnian Genocide, steps in to resolve the conflict. Even though it’s not meant to be funny, but the sister equates her brother’s inevitable break-up to the Bosnian genocide. Black humor at its best.
Some of his observations, especially in the story My Mother Explains the Ballet To Me, will connect to those of us in the Asian culture. Narrated by the young son, he talks about all what his mother says throughout the ballet show- you need to talk to that female usher, you need to stand up straight like the ballet dancer and so on.
In yet another hilarious sketch, Eisenberg writes about Alexander Graham Bell’s first telephone conversations. These were some of the lol moments in the book.
However, when it came to American-centric issues, like Dating and Sports, I felt disconnected for most parts. I also didn’t enjoy the Self-Help part as I felt that missed the mark. A lost opportunity.
Jesse Eisenberg, as some may recognize the name, played Mark Zuckerberg in A Social Network and Lex Luthor in Superman Returns. I had no idea he wrote, and he has written some more books as well. His strongest suit is the short stories, as that’s when he is at his wittiest best.