I remember the first time I came across Etgar Keret, and that I threw the book across the room. I had been beat to the punch. This marvel, this oracle, this as we say in Yiddish, this “meshuga” mind had figured out how to hybrid what felt to me a mix of Irvine Welsh, Amy Hempel, Kafka, Grecian folklore, Bernard Malmud, and like, ten parts of the Bible in one diabetic shock-inducing collection called The Nimrod Flipout. He had figured out how to write it right.
It was one of the greatest things I had ever read and it really cooked my golden egg-laying, attempting to be a short short fabulist writing goose. Keret showed up with a bag of tricks in bright colors and spilling with insight. He was young, hip, brash, sexy and hilarious, and I drank up every word like it was holy water from some sort of wisdom well.
The first time Etgar popped up, said hello, and socked me in the nose was The Nimrod Flipout and the story is called “Fatso.” To me, it’s one of the most important stories in human communication, ever. It’s Carver reincarnate. I’d compare Keret to filmmaker Wes Anderson, they both tell us something about ourselves, bring us to a place on our knees, with ourselves, in the most peculiar ways, via the most peculiar situations and examples.
Example: “Fatso.” The three-tiny-page story starts with a young man talking about a relationship. He loves a girl, she loves him and then she cries and says she has to confess. He wonders what it could be, he thinks maybe she’s a hooker, it turns out that at night she “turns into a heavy, hairy man with no neck.” He comforts her, they make love, and while he’s stroking her body in his bed, she grows into the man she has described. They wake in the middle of the night, they get steaks, they watch soccer. In the morning she is the girl he has loved, and so it repeats, and that’s the story.
In under 800 words, Keret’s touched on sexuality, vapidity, love, trust, connection, comfort, and it’s a fun whirlwind of weird and his wording hurts. That’s really what I think about when I think about Keret, he hurts: “When you first met him, you didn’t give a damn about soccer, but now you know every team. Which is a pretty exceptional feeling for someone like you, who hardly knows what he wants most of the time.”
We might not trust him so much were he not so vulnerable, which is a skill/tool in writing simultaneously both hard to exploit and impossible to hide. We’re taken on a stroll through what we’re really thinking, it’s just that he stands up with a magic baton in a fun-house from another dimension on a soapbox made of solid oak and actually says it.
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