Discovering Deborah Eisenberg

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a New York Times profile of Deborah Eisenberg….

American short-story writer and professor of writing at Columbia University, Deborah Eisenberg (pictured above) was an unknown name to me. Until I read a profile of her in last Thursday’s New York Times Magazine. Running under the headline, “Deborah Eisenberg: Chronicler of American Insanity,” the story described her painfully slow writing process and the Times‘ lede (beginning) thoroughly hooked me.

Here is what journalist Giles Harvey wrote:

It takes Deborah Eisenberg about a year to write a short story. She works at a desk overlooking the gently curving stairwell in her spacious, light-soaked Chelsea apartment. A small painting of a brick wall, suspended from the high ceiling by two slender cables, hangs at eye level in front of the desk, a sardonic reminder of the nature of her task. For Eisenberg, coming up against a brick wall is what writing often feels like. At 72, she has been conducting her siege on the ineffable for more than four decades, and yet the creative process remains almost totally opaque to her. 

I learned that Eisenberg’s fifth collection of short stories, Your Duck Is My Duck, is being published this month and that it is her first book in 12 years. I’m going to race to the library so I can start reading her other collections which carry such titles as, All Around Atlantis and Twilight of the Superheroes.

I also learned that she writes remarkable sentences. Here are three back-to-back ones that resonated with me, in which a character describes her sleep problems to an unsympathetic doctor: “I’m hurtling through time, strapped to an explosive device, my life. Plus, it’s beginning to look like a photo finish — me first, or the world. It’s not so hard to figure out why I’m not sleeping. What I can’t figure out is why everybody else is sleeping.”

I can hardly wait to start reading more.