With Your Duck is My Duck (Ecco, $26.99) her first new collection of stories in twelve years, Deborah Eisenberg gives us a true, funny, and troubling picture of our world, and a chilling glimpse of the future. The present is unevenly divided between the haves and have-nots; the haves worry about insomnia and whether they’ll see the Taj Mahal before they die. “Merge” gives an indelible close-up of this rapacious class, focusing on the son of a corporate despot who’s been cut off by dad but is gamely following in his footsteps with impressive displays of entitlement and self-justification. In the title story Eisenberg’s outrage on behalf of workers and indigenous peoples of Western-exploited tropical paradises comes through in searing language. The gatherings at the beach paradise are “more tournaments than dinner parties,” and after a contingent of accountants blows through, there’s nothing left but “crumbs.” While the wealthy pull the strings, artists pull back. A progressive puppeteer stages the “simple moral fable” of a monarch oblivious to the fact that “the serfs and donkeys are already inflamed with rage.” Sure enough, the island explodes.
Enamoring and impossible to put down, Lauren Groff's Florida (Riverhead, $27) is a collection of eleven short stories that explore timeless themes such as loneliness, anger, family, and marriage. Each story is vastly different, but all are connected by Florida as their centerpiece. We meet dissatisfied mothers, sisters, and sons encountering the anxieties of Floridian swamps and suburbia. This collection exemplifies Groff's ability to write from many different perspectives effectively; her writing is somehow superbly lyrical while also cutting and precise. Although in reading we encounter snakes, panthers, and untrustworthy terrain, many of the threats present in Florida are of a psychological sort--proving Groff's singular talent to write beautiful, evocative prose that shakes you long after you finish reading. This collection is a must read for any fiction lover.
Published posthumously with an introduction by Amy Bloom, Thom Jones’s Night Train: New and Selected Stories (Little, Brown, $28) will delight his fans and serve as an introduction to this very intense and slightly demented American short story master. Whether he’s writing about soldiers, boxers, drunks, or general miscreants, his prose is high-octane and variously funny or sad or both at the same time.