Witty New York narratives and apocalyptic atmospheres make for a collection that rewards rereading
“I always thought of writing as holy,” Deborah Eisenberg told the Paris Review in 2013. “I still do. It’s not something to be approached casually.” No one could accuse Eisenberg, who has published five story collections in 33 years, and whose previous book came out when George W Bush was president, of being casual. She says her stories take about a year each to write, which doesn’t seem so long when one considers their humour, their precision and their great intricacy. She writes stories that demand, and reward, revisiting.
Eisenberg’s four previous collections all begin with a young person coming to New York and undergoing a transformation, so it feels significant that Your Duck Is My Duck should buck this trend and open with an older person, a painter, leaving the city to become a more authentic version of herself. This isn’t Eisenberg’s fictional version of Joan Didion’s Goodbye to All That, though. The painter returns to New York after hearing the Zen riddle that gives the book its title, and all the volume’s subsequent stories have at least one foot in the city, or one hand desperately clinging to it.