Amy P. Knight

Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides

Most of these stories aren’t new. There are ten stories total. One or two I’d read before, and several have familiar characters (a doctor from Middlesex; boys from The Marriage Plot). None of them blew me away, although they were solid and enjoyable. I think Eugenides is at his best as a novelist, as none of these stories have the tightness, the economy that defines the very best of the form. Oddly, my favorite of the collection is (I think?) the oldest, from 1988 — “Capricious Gardens,” with the sort of classic set-up of an unlikely group of people arriving together in a house for the evening. Many of the others felt like they were snapshots, pieces of a larger world, which in some cases we know them to be, and in others, well, maybe they are and maybe they’re not. Who’s to say.