Review

Making Scenes

by Adrienne Eisen



Not for the faint of heart, Adrienne Eisen's MAKING SCENES is a
disturbing glimpse into the life of a young woman unsuccessfully
dealing with bulimia, low self-esteem, and an abusive childhood. Be
warned: this is not a typical tale of triumph over adversity.
Eisen's unnamed narrator is seemingly comfortable in her
dysfunction and never makes any serious attempts to change her
life, instead moving from one unhealthy situation to the
next.

We first meet our narrator as she is declaring her financial
independence from her parents and pursuing a career as a
professional beach volleyball player. This lighthearted premise
quickly takes a frightening turn as we witness her bingeing and
purging, her obsessive exercise habits, her self-mutilation, and
her generally bad attitude. After a few forays into the world of
pornography to make fast cash, she lands a job on the floor of the
stock exchange. Before she is fired, she begins an affair with a
married stock broker. While this is not an original topic in and of
itself, in Eisen's hand it assumes a more sinister shape, as their
relationship is characterized by desperation and violence.

Later in the novel she has a more stable relationship with a kind,
patient (and, tellingly, often impotent) man. But her neuroses make
the relationship impossible to sustain. Her exploration of
lesbianism, too, leaves her unsatisfied, restless and unhappy. It
is not until later in the book, when we are shown scenes from her
childhood, that this unhappiness and destructive behavior begins to
make sense.

If it were not for the secrets half-revealed, the narrator would
seem like an overindulgent drama queen. When our disorganized and
dysfunctional narrator eventually finds herself in graduate school,
it does not seem unrealistic, only sad. We readers know this
endeavor is doomed to failure as well. Her intelligence is
unquestionable as is her love for learning, both of which are
demonstrated throughout the book. However, intelligence is of no
help to her in facing the issues in her life.

Wildly funny at times and quite disgusting at others, MAKING SCENES
is an original take on a common literary theme: single girl out in
the world. Be careful not to dismiss this novel as a racier Bridget
Jones --- it is far darker and sadder than that. It is often
difficult to like the narrator but it is hard not to care about
her. While her experiences may (thankfully) be far removed from
most readers, her desperation, sadness, and self doubt are easy to
understand. Eisen treats her character with a combination of pity,
sympathy, and disgust. This, one understands, is how the character
treats herself.

Splashed across the cover of the book is Eisen's award-winning
website, where one can find the novel in its entirety. Reading it
online is a completely different experience than reading the bound
version, which somehow seems harsher, scarier, much more of an
emotional assault. The hypertext version, however, is out of order,
the scenes placed randomly like unrelated vignettes --- and the
story is funnier and more surreal. Yet there are passages that
retain the strength of their impact in both mediums.

Much in the novel remains without context, and while some may find
this frustrating, others will appreciate Eisen's sense of realism
and her faith in the intelligence of the reader. Of course, the
context for each scene all but disappears online. Eisen's novel is
shocking and at times affected, but it is a promising debut. Its
hipness and smartness can barely camouflage the serious and
terrifying story that lies just beneath the surface: that of a
young woman, scarred by childhood trauma, slowly sinking farther
and farther into her illness.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 22, 2011

Making Scenes
by Adrienne Eisen

  • Publication Date: April 1, 2001
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Broadvision
  • ISBN-10: 0970351704
  • ISBN-13: 9780970351708