Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Bream Gives Me Hiccups

by Jesse Eisenberg

The remarkable debut by the Academy Award–nominated actor, famous for his roles in The Social Network and other films, a collection of hilarious, moving, and highly inventive stories that explore the ridiculousness of modern-day life, in the tradition of Woody Allen, Simon Rich, and David Sedaris.

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 304
  • Publication Date August 09, 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2532-3
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 288
  • Publication Date September 08, 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2404-3
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $26.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date September 08, 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-9081-9
  • US List Price $16.00

About The Book

Bream Gives Me Hiccups: And Other Stories is the whip-smart fiction debut of Academy Award–nominated actor Jesse Eisenberg. Known for his iconic film roles but also for his regular pieces in the New Yorker and his two critically acclaimed plays, Eisenberg is an emerging literary voice.

Taking its title from a group of stories that begin the book, Bream Gives Me Hiccups moves from contemporary L.A. to the dorm rooms 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 his sister, who is obsessed with the Bosnian genocide (“The situation reminds me of a little historical blip called the Karaðorðevo 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 open with illustrations 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.

Praise

“Brilliantly witty, deeply intelligent, and just plain hilarious. If David Sedaris wrote about Carmelo Anthony, Bosnian genocide, and ramen-stealing college freshmen, it would probably come out something like Jesse Eisenberg’s Bream Gives Me Hiccups. A moving portrait of human beings at their weaker moments, and a wonderful send-up of the insanities of modern America.” —Sherman Alexie

“I’ve been a fan of Jesse Eisenberg’s plays for years and his prose is just as winning. Bream Gives Me Hiccups is hilarious, poignant and at times so self-deprecating it makes me want to give Jesse a hug. He’s taken decades of neurosis and spun it into comedy gold.” —Simon Rich

“A remarkable book by an immensely talented writer.” —Andy Borowitz

“Jesse Eisenberg is a deeply original comic voice. These stories are about the funniness, sadness, and strangeness of everyday life and they really made me laugh.” —Roz Chast

“Jesse Eisenberg is the new Woody Allen for the next generation . . . intelligent, sensitive, insightful, funny . . . It’s hard to choose one or two moments to really highlight in what is an entire book of tremendous pathos and hilarity. Jesse has given life to these characters . . . heartbroken, fractured, demented, selfish, desperate, beautiful characters . . . Read this. It might make you unintentionally smarter.” —Shannon McConnell, Examiner

“He’s a walking ball of neuroses, a fledgling playwright, and now a short-story writer, telling tales covering subjects as varied as Pompeii and ramen.” —New York Magazine (Fall Books Preview)

“Eisenberg’s 28 stories in Bream Gives Me Hiccups range from the diary of a nine-year-old food critic to letters about stolen ramen . . . Eisenberg’s characters are lively, and his awareness of universal neuroses (yours and his alike) shows he’s more than a hobbyist.” —Time (Best of Fall Books)

“[Eisenberg’s] jittery on-screen energy seeps onto the pages of this book.” —Wall Street Journal (15 Books to Read This Fall)

“I love it.” —Diane Rehm, Diane Rehm Show

“A sharp, witty collection . . . Clever use of dramatic irony and an entertaining streak of theatrical absurdity. An acerbic 21st-century sketch show.” —Melissa Lawford, Financial Times

“Eisenberg’s strength is in dialogue and monologue, and in writing miserable characters who alternately compel (like a 9-year-old from a broken home who writes restaurant reviews) and repel (like Harper, the footnote-obsessed freshman Eisenberg lovingly describes as ‘maladjusted’) . . . Eisenberg is uncannily good at capturing a specific breed of insincere teen girl.” —Entertainment Weekly

“An alphabet soup of sketches, riffs, and innovations . . . Eisenberg is funny . . . with wit and insight beyond his 31 years . . . These stories remind me . . . of Steve Martin in the way they often subvert comic convention and, more significantly, in how the author empathizes with his characters . . . Eisenberg’s empathy, even more than his intelligence and wit, make him an artist worth watching.” —Mark Lindquist, Seattle Times

“Jesse Eisenberg is as unpredictable on the page as he is on screen . . . Eisenberg’s perversely dark sense of humor gives stories bite, and the collection’s loose structure—split into nine sections, some lasting only a few pages–makes it a brisk, approachable read . . . It’s a confident step forward for Eisenberg as a writer and should pave the way for a more formal novel, with any luck.” —USA Today

“This book is so good, I read it in one gulp. Densely clustered brilliance from a consistent over-achiever, it’s funny, precise, and tender.” —Richard Ayoade

“A short humor collection overflowing with high-strung characters entangled in absurd situations.” —O Magazine (A Dozen Ways to Spread the Cheer)

“I was reading this book and laughing out loud over and over and over again . . . This is really good . . . Wildly funny short stories . . . Spectacular.” —WGBH/Boston Public Radio

“The star of The Social Network and The Last Tour can also write! ‘separation Anxiety Sleep Away Camp” is worth the entire volume.” —SF Gate (Recommendations from Mrs. Dalloway’s)

“Actor Eisenberg’s debut collection impresses . . . He starts strong with the title story—subtitled Restaurant Reviews from a Privileged Nine-Year-Old— reflecting on life in Los Angeles through the eyes of a precocious and empathetic boy . . . The child is reminiscent of Marcus in Nick Hornby’s About a Boy in terms of sensitivity and honesty, but substantially more sophisticated . . . In a longer narrative, he skilfully captures the voice of a socially awkward female college student. Her story is at times heartwarming and at other times disturbing. It’s as if a very angry Judy Blume wrote the story . . . All told, Bream Gives Me Hiccups provides something for everyone . . . Eisenberg has an excellent command of language, along with an engaging wit expressed through vivid characters . . . A delightful combination of emotional depth and satire.” —Winnipeg Free Press

“There’s a lot of active thinking in Eisenberg’s work . . . The world of Bream Gives Me Hiccups is full of over-thinkers; a neurotic urban world populated by therapists, crammed with pseudo-intellectual references and fueled by the anxiety of the privileged. It’s at its funniest when its characters’ neuroses overwhelm rational behavior and make everything far more complicated than is necessary . . . An astute observer of human delusion.” —Irish Times

“Mr. Eisenberg . . . is expanding as a playwright and author . . . For those seeking hidden clues into the real Mr. Eisenberg by reading his fiction, there is no simple transparency . . . This fascination with psychology, neurosis and a mash-up of high and low culture often inspires comparisons with Woody Allen . . . Mr. Eisenberg prefers to be a creator rather than a consumer of culture.” —Observer

“Fans of writing by Woody Allen and B.J. Novak will revel in these hilarious pieces by actor-playwright Eisenberg. Light or dark but never sweet, each is inventive . . . Relationships gone haywire provide many of the best jokes. It’s a hoot.” —Kim Hubbard, People (The Best New Books)

“It’s no surprise, perhaps, that the actor’s short stories read like scenes. What may be a surprise, however, is Eisenberg’s deft talent for playfully bringing both familiar and wholly original scenarios to life.” —Marie Claire (What We’re Reading)

Bream Gives Me Hiccups & Other Stories features a mixture of humor and sad stories . . . In his new collection . . . Eisenberg has some wicked fun with limousine liberals, the young and overly educated, and others from demographic groups in urgent need of satire. Yet he does so with surprising compassion and a deep feeling for the pain of human disconnectedness.” —Kevin Nance, Chicago Tribune

“The star of The Social Network makes his fiction debut with this collection of witty stories. They’re set all over the place, from modern-day LA to ancient Pompeii, and are all undeniable smart and fun reads.” —Heat (UK)

“He sure can act, and boy, can he write. The debut collection of stories by the Oscar-nominated Social Network star is well observed, friskily written and a hoot.” —Tatler (UK)

“The Oscar-nominated actor’s debut collection channels a youthful, alternative vibe that combines the innovation of the digital world with the armchair philosophizing of the slacker generation. The core group of stories, ‘Restaurant Reviews from a privileged Nine-Year-Old,’ are wisecracking, knowing and sardonic.” —Sunday Telegraph (UK)

“Funny and poignant, a darkly comic look at family, insecurity, and, briefly, Cameroonian separatism.” —National Post

“[Bream Gives Me Hiccups] reads like half-written material for a stand-up comedy show, or skits for Saturday Night Live. It is all infused with the cadence of old-fashioned New York Jewish humor . . . There’s a string of character portraits, written in the first person, which show off Eisenberg’s flair for writing dialogue.” —Sunday Times (UK)

“A great book . . . The first part of the book [is] a series of restaurant reviews Eisenberg writes in the voice of a privileged nine-year old. The reviews are hilarious but gradually reveal a moving portrait of a lonely boy’s bond with his single mom. All the stories seem to work on multiple levels like that.” —Arun Rath, “All Things Considered,” NPR

“The most obvious comparison, perhaps homage, is to Woody Allen . . . Eisenberg, 31, shares the older man’s gift for putting an almost permanent wry smile on your face . . . The constant shift in form keeps things fresh . . . Eisenberg has made an unlikely movie star . . . Perhaps being an author–albeit a very funny one—is a more obvious fit. But it is when he writes more and jokes less that Eisenberg’s prose really sings, leading you to hope he takes the plunge and writes a proper novel soon. But his thoroughly enjoyable debut will more than do for now.” —Esquire (UK)

“If you haven’t yet heard of this young talent . . . you soon will. These short stories are all wonderfully original. The title story . . . is funny and heartbreaking–sometimes in the same sentence . . . Terrific.” —Times (UK)

“Eisenberg continues to deliver both considered humor and intelligent, conversational prose . . . Bream Gives Me Hiccups is a charming and clever collection which occasionally packs a striking emotional punch . . . Eisenberg is a sharp and smart writer . . . There is a tangible presence of both style and substance in this debut collection.” —Independent (UK)

“Eisenberg has a terrific ear, especially for adolescent inflections, absurdity, self-delusion, and insecurity. He also has a flair for off-the-wall ideas . . . With its panoply of neurotics and narcissists and its smart mix of stinging satire and surprising moments of sweetness, Bream Gives Me Hiccups brings to mind fellow comic actor/writers Woody Allen, Steve Martin and B.J. Novak. It also offers a youthful new twist on what one of Eisenberg’s hopeless dreamers refers to–ironically, of course–as the cruel ‘irony of life.’” —Heller McAlpin, NPR Books

“Compelling . . . A fascinating look into the minds of misfits . . . Whether it’s Alexander Graham Bell bumbling through his first phone calls or Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks pacifying a fan, Eisenberg’s ability to create interesting and entertaining dialogue as if the exchange actually occurred is impressive . . . Eisenberg’s wit jumps off the page . . . Bream Gives Me Hiccups is a delightful collection of awkward scenarios twisted into humorous, witty and sometimes poignant life lessons. It’s simultaneously smart, clever and creative.” —Lincee Ray, Associated Press

“The debut story collection from actor Eisenberg is a quick, witty read. . . hilarious . . . modernist tragicomic scenarios . . . Eisenberg’s brand of comedy is frequently compared to Woody Allen’s, and it’s easy to see why—the stories are populated with neuroses, highly difficult people, anxious mothers, and therapists; all seem to function in the same self-contained New York universe. . . charming, deftly written, and laugh-out-loud funny.” —Publishers Weekly

“With an offbeat wit, Academy Award-nominated actor and writer Eisenberg proves to be a compassionate chronicler of absurdity . . . Reminiscent of Woody Allen’s prose experiments, these quirky and digestible stories take the form of text messages, letters, jokes, transcribed conversations, pamphlets, and, in one case, a camp itinerary for codependent children. . . Even those tales with a more traditional structure toy with expectations . . . Eisenberg’s pithy, amusing pieces . . . delight with their playfulness and insight.” —Booklist

“Jesse Eisenberg’s hysterical and exciting stories come in the form of email exchanges, conversations in parks, and late night drunken speeches. A little boy’s restaurant reviews capture the ridiculous, inappropriate and tender relationships between single mothers and their children with an honesty that will bring tears of laughter to your eyes. Eisenberg explores the disturbing ineptitude with which we live our lives, the terrible advice we give to family members, the burden that we place on those we love, and how wonderful, wonderful it all is.” —Heather O’Neill

“If Jesse Eisenberg’s first fiction collection were made up of simple extended bits, in which Eisenberg takes an initial premise and wittily wrings it for every drop of comedic juice possible, the book would still be an entertaining read. What makes Bream Gives Me Hiccups more than that, however, is the dissection of social anxiety underlying each piece. Through a myriad of perspectives . . . Eisenberg relates a collective understanding of how difficult it is to both like others and also feel liked . . . Eisenberg’s characterizations are light and dexterous, and almost neurotically close. . . . Bream Gives Me Hiccups attests to Eisenberg’s understanding of our cultural moment in which art and pop are still meeting, and still clashing. . . . Rather than sacrifice reality for sentiment (or vice versa), Eisenberg vacillates between the two. The results are characters and stories that at first make you laugh, then think, then sigh.” —Allison Rodriguez, ZYZZYVA

“Eisenberg’s stories leap from college dorms to Los Angeles to ancient Pompeii, charting socially awkward moments with tart humor. Folks will be interested.” —Library Journal

Bream Gives Me Hiccups isn’t merely comic writing of the first order; it’s an often tender, highbrow-lowbrow mash-up that encompasses everything from Chomsky and Zizek to disastrous pickup lines and pubescent neuroses. Jesse Eisenberg writes with formidable intellect and verbal dexterity, but he also has something many deadeye satirists lack: empathy with his targets. To borrow his most unforgettable character’s line, you’ll want to give his debut collection 2000 out of 2000 stars.” —Teddy Wayne, author of The Love Song of Jonny Valentine

Awards

A Fall Books Preview Selection by Audible
One of the Wall Street Journal’s 15 Books to Read This Fall
One of USA Today‘s Weekend Picks for Book Lovers
One of People Magazine‘s Best New Books

Excerpt

From “Restaurant Reviews from a Privileged Nine-Year-Old”

Sushi Nozawa

Last night, Mom took me to Sushi Nozawa, near Matt’s house. Except she didn’t let Matt come with us and I had to leave in the middle of my favorite show because Mom said we would be late for our reservation and that I didn’t know who she had to blow on to get the reservation.

At the front of Sushi Nozawa is a mean woman. When I asked Mom why the woman is so angry, Mom said it’s because she’s Japanese and that it’s cultural. The woman at school who serves lunch is also mean but she is not Japanese. Maybe it’s just serving food that makes people angry.

Sushi Nozawa does not have any menus, which Mom said made it fancy. The Sushi chef is very serious and he stands behind a counter and serves the people whatever he wants. He is also mean.

The first thing they brought us was a rolled-up wet washcloth, which I unrolled and put on my lap because Mom always said that the first thing I have to do in a nice restaurant is put the napkin in my lap. But this napkin was hot and wet and made me feel like I peed my pants. Mom got angry and asked me if I was stupid.

The mean woman then brought a little bowl of mashed-up red fish bodies in a brown sauce and said that it was tuna fish, which I guess was a lie because it didn’t taste like tuna and made me want to puke right there at the table. But Mom said that I had to eat it because Sushi Nozawa was “famous for their tuna.” At school, there is a kid named Billy who everyone secretly calls Billy the Bully and who puts toothpaste on the teacher’s chair before she comes into the classroom. He is also famous.

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