Jill Eisenstadt is the author of the novel FROM ROCKAWAY (Knopf, 1987/Vintage Contemporaries, 1988), published to wide praise when she was a 24-year-old Bennington College graduate, and KISS OUT (Knopf, 1991). Her essays, articles, short fiction and poetry have appeared in such publications as The New York Times, New York Magazine, Vogue, Elle, Bomb, The Best of The New York Times “City Section” and Best American Sex Writing. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the writer Michael Drinkard.
“Don't call it a comeback – call it the literary comeback of the year.”
*One of the New York Post’s “29 Best Books of the Summer”*
*One of Town & Country’s “13 Books to Read This Summer”*
When Sue and Dan Glassman moved into their house in Rockaway, Queens, they cared more about escaping their cramped Tribeca apartment than the house itself. The family was so desperate for more room, Sue even finally gave into her father-in-law’s demand that she convert to Judaism so that he’d help out with the purchase. As her oldest daughter puts it, she “sold her soul for a sea view and a few extra bathrooms.” Then there’s the fact that the house is in need of major repair, is known around town as “The Murder House,” and might be haunted.
On the weekend of Sue’s conversion party, the house’s previous owner, ninety-year-old Rose, escapes from her assisted living facility and shows up at the door. And while the house is nothing special to the Glassmans, Rose – who once literally got away with murder there – is not quite ready to part with it. In fact, suitcase in tow, she seems intent on moving back in. Meanwhile, the Glassmans’ neighbor Tim (who originally appeared in Eisenstadt’s debut FROM ROCKAWAY) is also drawn into their orbit. Before long, the situation in the house begins to spin out of control. SWELL is a deft exploration of family, relationships, and the perils of living in a world rife with uncertainty. By turns insightful and grimly hilarious, this kaleidoscope-like novel presents a world forever shifting under the feet of both readers and characters until even the most outrageous events begin to seem reasonable.
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“Line after snappy line of shrewd, cruelly accurate character observation . . . Eisenstadt is fabulous at working the wavy borders between friendship and love, childhood and adolescence, loyalty and peer pressure.”
Jill Eisenstadt’s fast-paced first novel chronicles the coming-of-age of four teenagers in Rockaway, or “Rotaway,” at the Atlantic edge of New York City. They drink a lot, do a little dope, and feel no more in charge of their lives at 18 than they did in Catholic grammar school. Only Alex will go away to college, the rest of her group will stay: Timmy, a dropout and a lifeguard, Alex’s ex-boy friend and still in love with her; “Chowderhead,” Peg and the cruel Sloane, lifeguards too, the horizons of their lives as narrow as the beaches of their summers are wide.
When Alex leaves for school, Timmy misses her with an utter and believable acuity; meanwhile, he and Chowderhead work at a deli, the movie theater burns down, and Peg takes a “hat walk:” a drink in every bar on the mile-long boardwalk. In Maine, Alex stumbles through her first semester. Combining innocence and experience, hope and hopelessness, Eisenstadt’s characters pulse with modernity.
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“A novel of extravagant wackiness, eccentricity and exuberance. . .”
—New York Times Book Review
Three years after her widely praised first novel, FROM ROCKAWAY (Knopf, 1987) Jill Eisenstadt confirmed her talent with the antic misadventures of her second novel, KISS OUT. Sam Lubin, who sings at bar mitzvahs and retirement parties with his family’s rock-and-roll band, decides to marry 18-year-old Claire. His explanation? “She’s really, really, rich…Besides, I love her.”
Claire has devoted the last two years of her life to mourning her mother (who literallydied of embarrassment at a garden-club luncheon) and tending to her bereaved father. She has so little sense of self that she doesn’t even appear in her own dreams. With colloquial yet sophisticated style, Eisenstadt leads this raucous comedy on a dizzying tour of ostentatiously lowbrow culture and growing-up angst as Claire begins to demand more from life.
KISS OUT is manic on the surface and, like the best comedies, concerned with matters of grave importance, love and death among them, at heart.