Bream Gives Me Hiccups: And Other Stories is the whip-smart fiction debut of Academy Award-nominated actor Jesse Eisenberg. Known for his iconic film roles but also for his regular pieces in the New Yorker and his two critically acclaimed plays, Eisenberg is an emerging voice in fiction.
Taking its title from a group of stories that begin the book, Bream Gives Me Hiccups moves from contemporary L.A. to the dormrooms of an American college to ancient Pompeii, throwing the reader into a universe of social misfits, reimagined scenes from history, and ridiculous overreactions. In one piece, a tense email exchange between a young man and his girlfriend is taken over by the man’s sister, who is obsessed with the Bosnian genocide (The situation reminds me of a little historical blip called the Karadordevo agreement); in another, a college freshman forced to live with a roommate is stunned when one of her ramen packets goes missing (she didn’t have “one” f my ramens. She had a chicken ramen); in another piece, Alexander Graham Bell has teething problems with his invention (I’ve been calling Mabel all day, she doesn’t pick up! Yees, of course I dialled the right number – 2!).
United by Eisenberg’s gift for humor and character, and grouped into chapters that each open with an illustration by award-winning cartoonist Jean Jullien, the witty pieces collected in Bream Gives Me Hiccups explore the various insanities of the modern world, and mark the arrival of a fantastically funny, self-ironic, and original voice.
Ok, I admit that I only wanted to read this book to see what Jesse Eisenberg had to bring to the literary table. I had read other books by actors before and been really disappointed and so I was prepared to go off with a smug face and say “Oh, Bream Gives Me Hiccups is awful. Jesse Eisenberg should just stick to what he knows” but I got my eye wiped. Bream Gives Me Hiccups is a damn fine piece of writing.
The collection of short stories varies from the sad to the weird to the downright scary. It is a cornucopia of understanding of modern society and everyday life. Issues of divorce, bitterness, stalking, social media, dating etc are dealt with in really funny and unique ways.
My favourite story from the collection is Nick Garret’s Review of Rachel Lowenstein’s New Book, Getting Away in which a book reviewer is critiquing a feminist piece which we are lead to assume is written by the reviewers ex (although it never explicitly says this); it is a scathing attack on a scathing attack. It is clever and funny.
Please do not judge this book by its author. I did and I was wrong. I apologise Jesse Eisenberg
Bream Gives Me Hiccups & Other Stories by Jesse Eisenberg is available now.