'Twilight of the Superheroes' Explores the Senses

Critic Alan Cheuse reviews Twilight of the Superheroes by Deborah Eisenberg, a collection of stories that offers new ways of seeing and feeling.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Prize-winning story writer Deborah Eisenberg has a new collection just out. It's called Twilight of the Superheroes. Alan Cheuse has a review.

ALAN CHEUSE reporting:

"Every day, there were new effects, modulation of colors and light as if something were being perfected at the core. Going from day to day was like unwrapping the real day from other days made out of splendid, fragile, colored tissue."

That's an observation in a story titled Window, about the ordinary round of things, as understood by a troubled contemporary hippie named Kristina. It's also a way that we might think about the work of Deborah Eisenberg herself. In the title story, for example, she treats with philosophical seriousness, though with a light metaphoric hand, the temporary housing situation of a couple of Manhattan slackers and turns it into a brilliant explanation of age and transformation.

Eisenberg creates such exquisite moods that one feels almost that to describe them is to vulgarize them. But I'll give it a try. In Some Other, Better Otto, a refined New York gay man, the Otto of the title, brings his longtime partner William to a Midwest Thanksgiving. 'Remembering how at one point he peeked into his brilliant schizophrenic sister Sharon's cluttered childhood room, Otto suddenly feels as if he were traveling with Sharon in some zone between earth and sky. Yes, down there, so far away, that was our planet.'

Moments such as these move all the stories in this collection, stories driven by emotive perceptions as though the usual compact and condensed feelings of a classic epiphany were suffused throughout an entire 20- or 30- or 40-page tale. It's as if something were being perfected at the core.

SIEGEL: The book is Twilight of the Superheroes by Deborah Eisenberg. Our reviewer, Alan Cheuse, teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

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