Under the 82nd Airborne

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In UNDER THE 82ND AIRBORNE, Deborah Eisenberg explores contemporary life more profoundly than she did in her first collection of short stories, TRANSACTIONS IN A FOREIGN CURRENCY (1986). Although the settings of these stories range from New York and London to Central America, in all of them characters are placed in situations where they must examine old ideas, formulate new ones, or choose to live on in comfortable blindness.

Many of the stories have appealing protagonists who are determined to understand the people around them. In “A Cautionary Tale,” an ambitious young woman who has come to New York to conquer it searches in vain for the motives of a man who refuses to be motivated. Similarly, in “The Custodian,” a girl who believed her neighbors to have the ideal marriage cannot account for the corruption which she finds is the real basis of their life together. The protagonist of the title story, a middle-aged woman named Caitlin, is just as innocent as Eisenberg’s younger characters. While she is in Honduras trying to locate her travel-brochure vacation, she seems incapable of noting the fact that everyone else, including her daughter, is deeply involved in covert operations, which may lead to revolution or war.

Throughout this collection of seven stories, Eisenberg is intent on revealing the morally bankrupt world which she sees. Her storytelling skills and her finely honed wit make for pleasant reading, however unpleasant the truths she tells.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. LXXXVIII, December 15, 1991, p. 749.

Chicago Tribune. March 31, 1992, V, p. 3.

Kirkus Reviews. LIX, November 1, 1991, p. 1362.

Los Angeles Times. February 13, 1992, p. E8.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVII, February 9, 1992, p. 11.

Publishers Weekly. CCXXXVIII, November 22, 1991, p. 39.

The Times Literary Supplement. May 8, 1992, p. 21.

The Wall Street Journal. March 5, 1992, p. A12.

The Washington Post. January 28, 1992, p. E4.

Women’s Review of Books. IX, July, 1992, p. 27.