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"The limited purchasing power that fills many characters in Jeffrey Eugenide's short story collection, Fresh Complaint, with recognizable dread has -- since many of those stories' original publication -- only been further attenuated. They are people caught up in all manner of precarious material conditions -- in dept to the instruments they play, running out of food in a snowstorm, on their last property flip. Eugenides is a master of ruthlessly zeroing in on the social / economic minutiae that make up a life. But what is most fascinating is how this collection communicates rather stuningly and directly the anchor these material conditions cast from the higher idealism of those hoping to be release from its lonely concerns ("Sometimes you thought you heard the music, especially when you were young, and then you spent the rest of your life trying to reproduce the sound." This is what great fiction does: Makes us both understood and discomfited. To have one's personal and historical conditions be recognized so acutely, whether in the darkly comedic, the subtle and cathartic invective, or the sobering, suffocating realism of those stories is all quite disarming and, these days, quite necessary." --John— From Our Favorite Books of 2017
The first collection of short fiction from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jeffrey Eugenides
Jeffrey Eugenides’s bestselling novels have shown him to be an astute observer of the crises of adolescence, self-discovery, family love, and what it means to be American in our times. The stories in Fresh Complaint explore equally rich—and intriguing—territory. Ranging from the bitingly reproductive antics of “Baster” to the dreamy, moving account of a young traveler’s search for enlightenment in “Air Mail” (selected by Annie Proulx for Best American Short Stories), this collection presents characters in the midst of personal and national emergencies. We meet a failed poet who, envious of other people’s wealth during the real-estate bubble, becomes an embezzler; a clavichordist whose dreams of art founder under the obligations of marriage and fatherhood; and, in “Fresh Complaint,” a high school student whose wish to escape the strictures of her immigrant family lead her to a drastic decision that upends the life of a middle-aged British physicist.
Narratively compelling, beautifully written, and packed with a density of ideas despite their fluid grace, these stories chart the development and maturation of a major American writer.