Your Duck is My Duck: Stories, Deborah Eisenberg 2018

In this her, seventh collection of short stories, Eisenberg offers us a dazzling display of her literary virtuosity.  In six stories, each very different from the other, she expresses her wonder at the human condition.  In the eponymous story, a painter is invited to the island home of a couple who has recently bought one of her paintings from an ex-lover.  The chaos and unreality at this island retreat leads to the artist forming a relationship with a puppeteer who is also a guest and who is producing an anarchist puppet show.  In Taj Mahal, a group of faded Hollywood stars in their 80’s is brought together by the publication of a tell-all biography by a famous director’s grandson, and they’re joined by the step sister of the author whose mother was one of the original group.   In Cross Off, Move on, a woman recalls her childhood where three aunts ameliorate the impact of her horrible mother.  In Merge, a spoiled 22 year old son is thrown out of the house by his father and ends up becoming a dog walker and personal assistant for an aging woman whose husband, a philologist disappeared 20 years ago on an Indonesian island.  The Third Tower  is a dystopic, 1984 like story about a woman who dares to have individual thoughts.  The final story, Recalculating, was my favorite. It’s about a college student from a conservative Midwest family who goes to London to attend the funeral of his wayward, gay, architect Uncle Phillip.  These are all wonderful stories with characters, places, and plots beautifully drawn by Eisenberg, a master of this genre.  Within a realistic frame, she creates a sense of wonder that might be expressed as “Is this really my life?  Is this really the world?”  Worth reading.

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