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Great Short Fiction from Israel
on September 7, 2002
Although wildly popular in his native Israel, this collection is the first of Keret's work to be published in the US. Two-thirds of the small book is given over to 22 equally small short stories, all ranging from 5-8 pages or so. These stories are difficult to characterize, although they generally feature alienated males (often children or teenagers), and the writing is universally deft and satirically witty with an underlying tone of irony and sorrow-occasionally drifting into unreality. Any description of them would not do them justice at all. I don't read enough American writers to think up a good comparison, although I would say Kerst shares some of Jonathan Lethem and Mark Jude Porier's territory. However, what the stories more similar to is some of the short fiction that came out of Scotland in the early to mid-'90s from people like Gordon Legge, Duncan McLean, and James Kelman, who also write very brief stories. Perhaps most of all, the book bears comparison to the absurdist fables of another Scot, Magnus Mills (All Quiet on the Orient Express, The Restraint of Beasts, Three To See The King). The novella which occupies the final third of the book, "Kneller's Happy Campers", about the afterlife of those who commit suicide, is especially redolent of Mills' odd and affecting mix of black humor and fantasy. The collection is drawn and translated from Keret's bestselling collections in Israel, and one can only hope that more makes it into English and across the shores.