The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg (Picador, 992 pages, $22).
Over the past 20 or so years, Eisenberg has gained a reputation as one of the great short story writers of our time. This is a huge book, and I confess to having read only about a third of the stories, but Eisenberg's themes are steady and recognizable: intricate writing, piercing insights, dark humor and an expansive view of human possibility, even if her characters often can't see the world for their own problems. These are finely etched stories, polished to a sheen. In fact, Eisenberg's talents are what stand out most in her stories, much more than her usually feckless characters who are, to this reviewer, too painfully clueless by half.