Sunday, February 16, 2014

Transactions in a Foreign Currency by Deborah Eisenberg


Neurotic characters wittily negotiate life

For the most part, these were weird cosmopolitan stories of eccentric lonely women in Manhattan, depicted in sharp descriptive prose. Much of the dialogue is deadpan flat out funny. Personally, I didn’t feel all that much sympathy with the main characters, the stakes of their dilemmas seemed a little low, but they all were alienated from normal life and I identified with the yearning for connection. The characters were fully three dimensional, not stock.

Every story is told in the first person which lent an instant structure to the collection. I loved Days, about a woman trying to quit smoking. The story is made up of comical scenelets, all taking place at the YMCA,illustrating a progression from one emotional state to another. I also liked Broken Glass, about a woman grieving for her mother during a long vacation in a South American country. That story was scary and vivid and moving. A commentary on colonialism. Some of the stories felt unfashionably long, a little dated as it might have been in, What It Was Like, Seeing Chris. The story was excellent. I don’t think it would get published today.

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