Few writers of serious literary fiction achieve as strong a popular following as Jeffrey Eugenides, author of The Virgin Suicides, Middlesex and The Marriage Plot. After a huge advertisement for his last novel appeared in Times Square featuring a photo of him striding purposefully towards the camera, the waistcoat he was wearing had, for a while, its own Twitter account. Six years on, Fresh Complaint comes excitingly billed as the ‘first collection of short stories by Eugenides’, though several were published in the New Yorker in the 1990s and one, ‘Capricious Gardens’ from 1989, predates his first novel. The collection explores, with particular reference to America, the connections between the inner and the outer life, with a suave wit and equanimity that make it deceptively conversational. ‘One’s country was like oneself. The more you learned about it, the more there was to be ashamed of’. This could be its motto.
The ten stories take us back to familiar Eugenides settings: the Midwest; Berlin, as experienced by a struggling artist; a life-changing Asian backpacking trip. ‘Air Mail’ centres on Mitchell from The Marriage Plot, while in ‘The Oracular