The first collection of short fiction from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jeffrey Eugenides
Jeffrey Eugenides’s bestselling novels have shown him to be an astute observer of the crises of adolescence, self-discovery, family love, and what it means to be American in our times. The stories in Fresh Complaint explore equally rich—and intriguing—territory. Ranging from the bitingly reproductive antics of “Baster” to the dreamy, moving account of a young traveler’s search for enlightenment in “Air Mail” (selected by Annie Proulx for Best American Short Stories), this collection presents characters in the midst of personal and national emergencies. We meet a failed poet who, envious of other people’s wealth during the real-estate bubble, becomes an embezzler; a clavichordist whose dreams of art founder under the obligations of marriage and fatherhood; and, in “Fresh Complaint,” a high school student whose wish to escape the strictures of her immigrant family lead her to a drastic decision that upends the life of a middle-aged British physicist.
Narratively compelling, beautifully written, and packed with a density of ideas despite their fluid grace, these stories chart the development and maturation of a major American writer.
Best known for the Pulitzer Prize winning novel Middlesex, Eugenides here collects the stories he has been steadily producing through the years. The earliest story, "Capricious Gardens," originates from Eugenides's M.F.A. thesis. In it, two American backpackers spend the night at the home of a recently divorced Irishman. Its plot (the host desires one of the travelers, but her companion has other plans) is of less importance than the structural experimentation. In the humorous "The Oracular Vulva," "the famous sexologist" Dr. Peter Luce (also featured in Middlesex) makes one last, uncomfortable attempt to salvage his theory of intersexuality and his prestige by journeying into a remote jungle village to do field work. "Airmail" is an epistolary account of a young man's journey towards enlightenment and gastric peace in India. "Baster" is a tale of a woman taking her fertility into her own hands with a marvelous O. Henry ending. The title story is an adroit and moving exploration of an Indian-American teenager's desperate attempts to avoid an arranged marriage. "The Great Experiment" is the collection's highlight: working for a small press called Great Experiment run by Jimmy Boyko, an elderly former pornographer turned free speech advocate Kendall spends his days collecting quotes from de Tocqueville's Democracy in America for a slim volume to be entitled The Pocket Democracy. When Jimmy's accountant tells Kendall over drinks, "If you and I weren't so honest we could make a lot of money" by embezzling from Jimmy's publishing venture, Kendall must weigh the price of his integrity against taking his slice of the American Dream. The collection is uneven, but even the weakest story is never boring, and Eugenides's prodigious abilities are showcased throughout.
Not worth reading!
Liked his other books. These stories, not at all