On the evening of Friday, October 30th, Oscar-nominated actor Jesse Eisenberg visited Milwaukee’s own Boswell Books to read from Bream Gives Me Hiccups—his new collection of short stories—answer questions about his acting and writing careers, and sign copies of the book for attendees.
Eisenberg is primarily known for his performance as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in the David Fincher directed film The Social Network. He has also starred in movies such as Zombieland, American Ultra, and The End of the Tour. Outside of acting, Eisenberg has written plays and now some short stories.
At Boswell Books, Eisenberg read two short pieces from Bream Gives Me Hiccups. The book, released in early September, contains several tales humorously exploring various aspects of contemporary life including children eating at upscale restaurants and young adults flirting in a world where genders are hardly concrete concepts. Eisenberg also treated the audience to a satirical journal entry about his life as a critically-acclaimed and widely recognized actor.
Eisenberg’s delivery of his stories was sharp and endearing. He did not exaggerate voices or speaking patterns, instead reading them somewhat meekly, letting the amusing and meticulously-crafted writings speak for themselves. Yet, there was a unique energy bubbling beneath the surface of his words not seen in his film or theater performances. It seems he has a unique passion for this medium and is excited to be sharing it on such a personal level.
After the readings, Eisenberg opened the floor to questions. As he discussed with audience members works he was inspired by while he wrote Bream Gives Me Hiccups, how he prepares for his diverse roles, and what it was like to work with certain directors and writers, he consistently cracked dry but endlessly clever jokes. He poked fun at his own nervousness, at the insanities of Hollywood, and even at entertainers who pander to local crowds by quietly mentioning the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers whenever there was a lull in discussion or a derailment of his train of thought.
Eisenberg truly opened his mind and inner workings up to the crowd at Boswell Books that night. He was unafraid of tackling tough and complex questions about his career and psyche and was playfully receptive to sillier inquiries posed by younger audience members. He constantly gave off a frank aura of gratitude and realism regarding the opportunities he has been given throughout his life and even the opportunity to be sharing his work with everyone at the bookstore there that night.
He had more conversations with fans as he signed books. He would ask everyone where they were from and express curiosity in fan’s hobbies and interests. His quick wit did not shut down as he did this.
Impressed by his sense of humor, I asked if he ever considered performing stand-up comedy. He stammered anxiously in response: “Oh, god, no. Stand-up comedians have to be funny. That’s terrifying.” He even wrote a humorous remark in my Illinois-born friend’s book, making sure he catered to his tastes as well, saying: “Go Bears! (Shh!)”
Jesse Eisenberg’s visit to Milwaukee was delightful on many levels. He bore his soul in his readings, in his answers to questions, and interactions with fans. Although I am only a few dozen pages into Bream Gives Me Hiccups, it has been made all the more delightful to read knowing such an intelligent, kind, and endearing individual has crafted it and continues to speak to me through the pages. I look forward to Eisenberg’s further written works, movie roles, and—hopefully—future visits to the Cream City.