Jesse Eisenberg has built up an impressive list of film credits now – a couple of breakout moments and he’s more than just a quirky, indie actor. Add to it his sideline in writing (plays, humour-essays and columns) and now this book of short stories and he’s just a punk rock band that accepts only a full-vegan rider away from challenging Viggo Mortensen to a photograph-off for title of Renaissance Man.
The comparison being trotted about here is that Eisenberg’s stories (essentially humorous essays – though it’s a stretch to call many of them humorous) are similar to Woody Allen’s work for the page. That’s a bit like comparing Bieber to Brando. Yes, there are shades of Sedaris in the tone here and there across Bream, though it’s an avuncular version – nothing here cuts, these are vague stabs at satire. At best. And often pages turn (admittedly easily) but this is frustratingly lightweight. You get the feeling it’s been celebrated because of who wrote it not because of what is written.
The title story is a series of restaurant reviews written by a nine year old (it’s too long, there are too many entries). Yes, yes, we get a picture of a broken home throughout but it’s nowhere near as clever as its author probably thinks. In fact so much of this just plays out where obvious idea is delivered, the clue usually being in the title of the piece, working almost as a set of instructions.
That’s it you see – these feel, most often, like writing exercises.
Where Steve Martin and B.J. Novak have succeeded (to name just two from the acting world who have “crossed over”) Eisenberg’s prose wasn’t much sharper than David Duchovny’s.
Still it’s a pin-up/poster-child world we live in now. So Duchovny is your new Tom Robbins. And Jesse Eisenberg is your new Woody Allen. These are the rules. And we have to live with that.
A second book might show something more, might prove he’s actually thought about developing ideas rather than exercises, but I doubt I’ll be sticking around to find out.
Where anywhere else you’ll read about this guy being some incredible talent, the prose dazzling with wit and sharp satire…I’ll stick with my original thoughts:
Jesse Eisenberg is the Shit Woody Allen of Shitty Woody Allen Writing. Fuck this is ghastly bad, unless the meta-joke is that he is actually James Franco by pen-name?