Deborah Eisenberg Courtesy of the MacArthur Foundation

Short story writer Deborah Eisenberg was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in September. The half-million dollar grants allow luminaries in fields as diverse as mathematics, biology and the arts to advance their work, no strings attached.

Eisenberg has been compared to a black swan, a Jazz Age divorcée and a European ballet mistress with a haunted past; her writing is rich with a bewitching elegance. It reveals a cut-glass intelligence restrained only by compassion for the boundlessness of human foibles and reverence for what can’t be known.

In the title piece of her most recent collection, Twilight of the Superheroes, a group of twenty-something friends witness the World Trade Center explosions from their terrace. The story explores the disjuncture between the violent transformation of her characters’ world view post-9/11 and the uninterrupted business of day-to-day life.

“It was as if there had been a curtain, a curtain painted with the map of the earth, its oceans and continents … The planes struck, tearing through the curtain of that blue September morning, exposing the dark world that lay right behind it, of populations ruthlessly exploited, inflamed with hatred, and tired of waiting for change to happen by.”

Eisenberg’s other short story collections include All Around Atlantis, Under the 82nd Airborne and Transactions in a Foreign Currency.