Deborah Eisenberg

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Deborah Eisenberg
Eisenberg in 2009
Eisenberg in 2009
Born (1945-11-20) November 20, 1945 (age 77)
Winnetka, Illinois,[1] U.S.
  • Writer
  • professor
Alma materMarlboro College; The New School[2]
Notable awards
PartnerWallace Shawn[3]

Deborah Eisenberg (born November 20, 1945) is an American short story writer, actress and teacher. She is a professor of writing at Columbia University.[4]

Early life[edit]

Eisenberg was born in Winnetka, Illinois. Her family is Jewish.[2] She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois, and moved to New York City in the late 1960s.


Eisenberg was an editorial assistant at The New York Review of Books in 1973.[5] She taught at the University of Virginia from 1994 until 2011, when she accepted a teaching position at Columbia University's MFA writing program.


Eisenberg has written five collections of stories: Transactions in a Foreign Currency (1986), Under the 82nd Airborne (1992), All Around Atlantis (1997), Twilight of the Superheroes (2006), and Your Duck Is My Duck (2018). Ben Marcus, reviewing Twilight of the Superheroes for The New York Times Book Review, called Eisenberg "one of the most important fiction writers now at work. This work is great."[6] Her first two-story collections were republished in one volume as The Work (So Far) of Deborah Eisenberg (1997).[7] Her first four collections were subsequently reprinted in The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg (2010).[8]

Eisenberg has also written a play, Pastorale, which was produced at Second Stage in New York City in 1982. She has written for such magazines as The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and The Yale Review.[7] She is the credited screenwriter of the 2020 Steven Soderbergh film Let Them All Talk, for which she wrote a 50-page treatment from which the actors largely improvised the dialogue.[9]


Eisenberg received the Rea Award for the Short Story in 2000, an award granted for significant contribution to the short story form. She has also received a Whiting Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship, both in 1987; and six O. Henry Awards, in 1986, 1995, 1997, 2002, 2006, and 2013.[10][11]

In 2007, Eisenberg was elected into the American Academy of Arts and Letters,[1] and in 2009 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship.[12] She won the 2011 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg.[13]

Eisenberg received the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story in May 2015.[14]

Your Duck Is My Duck was one of three finalists for The Story Prize for the year 2018.[15]

PEN controversy[edit]

In April 2015, in an exchange with American PEN's Executive Director Suzanne Nossel published in The Intercept by Glenn Greenwald,[16] Eisenberg criticized PEN's decision to bestow its annual Freedom of Expression Courage Award to Charlie Hebdo, calling the choice "an opportunistic exploitation of the horrible murders in Paris to justify and glorify offensive material expressing anti-Islamic and nationalistic sentiments already widely shared in the Western world."[16] Writers Michael Moynihan, Ophelia Benson and Katha Pollitt criticized her for comparing Charlie Hebdo to the Nazi publication Der Stürmer[17][18][19] while Jacob Siegel said she had put "dead cartoonists on trial".[20]

Joining Eisenberg in her protest of PEN's award ceremony were Peter Carey, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi.[21] In addition, 145 writers—including Junot Diaz, Lorrie Moore, Joyce Carol Oates and Michael Cunningham—signed a letter protesting PEN's decision. While calling the murders in the offices "sickening and tragic", the letter goes on to say, "PEN is not simply conveying support for freedom of expression but also valorizing selectively offensive material: material that intensifies the anti-Islamic, anti-Maghreb, anti-Arab sentiments already prevalent in the Western world."[22]

Personal life[edit]

Eisenberg lives in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City.[23]

Her longtime companion is actor-writer Wallace Shawn.[3] She was frequently referred to as "Debbie" in the film My Dinner With Andre, in which she also appears as a dining patron in the restaurant near the beginning.


Story collections[edit]

  • Transactions in a Foreign Currency. Knopf. February 12, 1986. ISBN 978-0-394-54598-1.
  • Under the 82nd Airborne. Faber. 1992. ISBN 978-0-571-16439-4.
  • All Around Atlantis. Simon & Schuster. 1998. ISBN 978-0-671-02462-8.
  • The Stories (So Far) of Deborah Eisenberg. Noonday Press. 1997. ISBN 978-0-374-52492-0.
  • Twilight of the Superheroes. Picador. 2006. ISBN 978-0-330-44460-6.
  • The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg. Picador. 2010. ISBN 978-0-312-42989-8.
  • Your Duck Is My Duck. Ecco. 2018. ISBN 978-0-062-68877-4.



Short stories[edit]

  • "Transactions in a Foreign Currency". The New Yorker. Vol. 60, no. 49. January 21, 1985. pp. 28–44.
  • Some Other, Better Otto. Picador. June 20, 2008. ISBN 978-0-330-45800-9.
  • Eisenberg, Deborah (Fall 2015). "Taj Mahal". The Paris Review. Fall 2015 (214).



  1. ^ a b "The American Academy of Arts and Letters Elects Nine New Members". American Academy of Arts and Letters. March 13, 2007. Archived from the original on June 17, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2011. Writer Deborah Eisenberg was born in Winnetka, Illinois
  2. ^ a b Smith, Dinitia (February 28, 2006). "Deborah Eisenberg Gets Attention With a Fifth Book of Stories". The New York Times. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  3. ^ a b Steindler, Catherine (Spring 2013). "Interviews, Deborah Eisenberg, The Art of Fiction No. 218". The Paris Review. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  4. ^ "Deborah Eisenberg". Columbia - School of the Arts. Retrieved June 17, 2019.
  5. ^ "The Amazing Human Launching Pads". New York. September 26, 2010. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  6. ^ Marcus, Ben (February 12, 2006). "Enigma Machines". The New York Times. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
  7. ^ a b "Deborah Eisenberg, Winner 2000". The Rea Award for the Short Story (Press release). 2000. Archived from the original on July 17, 2007.
  8. ^ Thompson, Jean (April 18, 2010). "Don't Have a Nice Day". The New York Times. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
  9. ^ "'Let Them All Talk' Review: Streep, Bergen & Wiest Sparkle in Steven Soderbergh's Delicious and Smart Comedy Set on a Queen Mary Cruise". December 3, 2020.
  10. ^ "The O. Henry Prize Stories: Past Winners List". Random House. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  11. ^ Ulin, David L. (September 10, 2013). "The Reading Life Looking at 'The O. Henry Prize Stories 2013'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  12. ^ "Deborah Eisenberg". MacArthur Foundation. January 26, 2009. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  13. ^ Bosman, Julie (March 15, 2011). "Deborah Eisenberg Wins PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction". The New York Times. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  14. ^ "Deborah Eisenberg wins Malamud prize for short fiction". Ynetnews. Associated Press. May 19, 2015. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  15. ^ "Announcing the 2018 Story Prize Finalists". January 9, 2019. Retrieved June 17, 2019.
  16. ^ a b Greenwald, Glenn (April 27, 2015). "Read the Letters and Comments of PEN Writers Protesting the Charlie Hebdo Award". The Intercept. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  17. ^ Moynihan, Michael (May 4, 2015). "America's Literary Elite Takes a Bold Stand Against Dead Journalists". The Daily Beast. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  18. ^ Benson, Ophelia (April 27, 2015). "Deborah Eisenberg gets Charlie Hebdo all wrong". Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  19. ^ Pollitt, Katha (April 30, 2015). "'Charlie Hebdo' Deserves Its Award for Courage in Free Expression. Here's Why". The Nation. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  20. ^ Siegel, Jacob (April 28, 2015). "Literati Sneer at Hebdo's Graves". The Daily Beast. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  21. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer (April 26, 2015). "Six PEN Members Decline Gala After Award for Charlie Hedbo". The New York Times. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  22. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer (April 30, 2015). "145 Writers Sign Letter Protesting PEN Award to Charlie Hedbo". The New York Times. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  23. ^ Harvey, Giles (September 27, 2018). "Deborah Eisenberg, Chronicler of American Insanity". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved October 1, 2018. Print version on Sunday, September 30, 2018, pp. 52-56, 68; here p. 54.

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