Book Review: Bream Gives Me Hiccups by Jesse Eisenberg

bream gives me hiccups.jpgTitle: Bream Gives Me Hiccups
Author: Jesse Eisenberg
Publisher: Grove Press
Hardcover:  273 pages
Source: Chicago OverDrive
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Taking its title from a group of stories that begin the book, Bream Gives Me Hiccups moves from contemporary L.A. to the dormrooms of an American college to ancient Pompeii, throwing the reader into a universe of social misfits, reimagined scenes from history, and ridiculous overreactions. In one piece, a tense email exchange between a young man and his girlfriend is taken over by the man’s sister, who is obsessed with the Bosnian genocide (The situation reminds me of a little historical blip called the Karadordevo agreement); in another, a college freshman forced to live with a roommate is stunned when one of her ramen packets goes missing (she didn’t have “one” of my ramens. She had a chicken ramen); in another piece, Alexander Graham Bell has teething problems with his invention (I’ve been calling Mabel all day, she doesn’t pick up! Yes, of course I dialed the right number – 2!).

United by Eisenberg’s gift for humor and character, and grouped into chapters that each open with an illustration by award-winning cartoonist Jean Jullien, the witty pieces collected in Bream Gives Me Hiccups explore the various insanities of the modern world, and mark the arrival of a fantastically funny, self-ironic, and original voice.

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Even though I try to keep myself to certain reading lists for figuring out what to read next, I sometimes like to browse the available titles on OverDrive just to see what’s out there, or to find a book I can read quickly. For some reason, this book caught my eye. I really like Eisenberg as an actor and have enjoyed the interviews he’s given, so when I saw that he wrote a book of humorous short stories — and that Sherman Alexie gave a blurb for it — I decided to try it out. I needed a new collection of short stories for work, so if anything, I figured it’d keep me entertained during the dead times in the office.

The book is divided into themes/parts, and my favorite section was the first part. A little kid basically writes reviews for everything he does, and I think it’s a hilarious and quite accurate portrayal of a kids’ experience. Andrew read this section as well and thought it was a bit sad, which I get. The kid is in a depressing situation in regards to the fact that his parents are divorced and aren’t very happy with their lives, but I didn’t focus on that too much, honestly. I just loved the idea of a kid giving a fancy restaurant a bad review because they didn’t have any “good food.” Having babysat and knowing how my niece and nephew would react to a fancy restaurant, it rings true.

Unfortunately, the rest of the book didn’t live up to the first part for me, but that will be different for everyone. While Andrew didn’t finish the book, he read a fair portion of it, and his favorite parts differed from mine a little bit. He really enjoyed the stories that had the main character interacting with different family members and such, while I really enjoyed the ones with crazier characters; there’s a story about a college freshmen in here who writes letters to her high school counselor, and it is gold. The stories are mostly good, but there were a few (more than I wanted, really) that didn’t hit the mark, though I can see them being enjoyable/funny for other people. I was definitely expecting a little more from the later stuff because the first section was so good, so that might have affected my opinions of the later stories. I think it’s a fun read if you like your humor on the darker side, and it doesn’t require too much investment to get through. This is very much a “check it out if you have time” book for me.

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