Fresh Complaint: Stories by Jeffrey Eugenides [in Library Journal]
Although Fresh is Pulitzer Prize-winning Jeffrey Eugenides’s (Middlesex) first-ever collection, the contents might seem familiar as only two of the 10 stories are actually “fresh” – the opening “Complainers” and closing “Fresh Complaint.” The rest appeared in various publications between 1989 and 2013.
What’s truly new here is that Eugenides makes his narrating debut, voicing the second story, “Air Mail,” about a world traveler more familiar with dysentery than enlightenment; while Eugenides’s presentation tends toward dry, he clearly enjoys adopting multiple other-than-American English accents.
Cynthia Nixon, whose acting prowess serves listeners well, narrates the two stories before and after Eugenides’s, voicing friends who have known each other for 40 years in “Complainers” and a 40-year-old’s ex-boyfriend (in a clever “sleight of voice”) in “The Baster.”
The performance of the remaining seven pieces belongs to reliably engaging Ari Fliakos, who comfortably settles into articulating a frustrated clavichordist in “Early Music,” a son visiting his parents’ newly acquired motel in “Timeshare,” a man estranged from his family in “Find the Bad Guy,” a gender expert in “The Oracular Vulva,” a relics thief in “Capricious Gardens,” an embezzling editor in “Great Experiment,” and an academic accused of more than impropriety in “Fresh Complaint.”
Verdict: With Eugenides’s reputation, libraries will want to acquire this collection for discerning patrons.