The Epitaph Negotiation by William Eisner


The Epitaph Negotiation is a collection of short stories by William Eisner that examines human reaction under stress. The 16 stories feature characters in a variety of stressful situations, from attempting to decide on what should be written on a dead man’s headstone to a man attempting to fall in love with a woman in hopes of replacing his deceased wife. Other stories include a new boss brought in to close a business, a drug dealer looking for forgiveness, and an old man’s retirement party. Many of the stories are connected – there are often two or three stories featuring the same characters but showing different viewpoints or times in their lives. The one common thread throughout the entire collection is the undesirable situations each character finds themselves in – it may not represent stress in the most used form, but each character is certainly under some form of distress.

The Epitaph Negotiation features some very interesting characters. However, at times it was a frustrating read. It was confusing at times to realize which stories went together and there was little flow between stories. Endings and beginning both felt choppy. As a reader, it would have been delightful to read fewer, more developed stories – perhaps all featuring the same character set. However, many of the stories in The Epitaph Negotiation were still fascinating and well-worth reading. The variety of ways that humans react to stress and outstanding circumstances is an intriguing topic to read about as each individual tends to have a different version of exactly how and why. The first story, told from multiple points of view, is a great example of this. Overall, The Epitaph Negotiation is a good read for those interested in human emotions and reactions.