first person protagonist in Adrienne Eisen’s novel Making Scenes stands
as a perfect poster model for the young twenty-first century woman—that is to
say an absolute basket case made so by the painful contradictions rife in her
socio-cultural/temporal sphere. Being post-postmodern, she seeks to reach a
state of perfection through a rigorous system of bulimia, obsessive exercise,
self-conscious forays into bisexuality and adultery, and excessive reading.
After all, what could be hipper and more desirable in this era than a slender,
vomiting, literate Jewish professional beach volleyball player dealing with
incest issues? Making Scenes reads like a dissertation on the absorbing
mess that is young modern woman.
in a classic post-feminist turn, Ms. Eisen chooses not to play the cards so
often used by many of her rank and file sisters. She refuses to reduce her moral
and social dilemmas to a politically-correct ovarian vs. testicular, black and
white duality, instead opting for a more substantial gray reality. This is not
to say she doesn’t blame others by turns for her disease or cast others in a
it is a light that illuminates her faults as starkly. The sharp, controlled
reality of the narrative reveals the inevitable truth that individuals are
almost always the cause and engine of their failures.
of the most satisfying aspects of the book is Eisen’s wry humor. If Woody
Allen were a bulimic post-feminist beach volleyball player, Making Scenes
is the kind of book he would be writing. But where Allen often twists the
existential into a broad absurdist reality, Eisen delves into a more personal
tragi-comic netherworld. Her humor ventures leagues beyond self-deprecation into
a realm of self-excoriation. Her brand of inward brutality only works because of
the light hand and wisdom applied to the work as a whole. Her understanding of
the farcical qualities of obsession and modern personhood flows like a
sure-running current throughout, and it is a current that pulls the reader along
with regularity and purpose.
construction and the pace of revelation stand as the only slight negatives in an
otherwise successful work. Some accounts of relationships and jobs, as well as
the vague recounting of an incestuous relationship with her father are often
introduced by fits and starts¾a
device that sometimes leads to character confusion and the feeling that one
missed something earlier in the narrative. Some elements build gradually while
others seem to drop from the clouds. In addition to these slight missteps, the
conclusion carries little sense of rounding the story, but since first person
often represents the ongoing pattern of life, the reader will find it easy to
forgive Ms. Eisen for not reducing a life to a perfect summation. This starkly
funny, sexual (though not particularly sexy), and compelling narrative will make
a great summer read for readers of either sex interested in modern mania.