Monday, August 25, 2008
monday book review: the nimrod flipout, by etgar keret
I make no secret of the fact that I'm a huge fan of the short story. There's something uniquely satisfying for me about digesting a complete piece in a  single sitting, then possibly even re-reading it a second or third time to pick up on the subtleties I may have missed the first time through. Furthermore, I think short fiction is a true test of a writer's skill, since there's a very limited space to achieve one's purpose, construct a satisfying plot, and flesh out one's characters. I think that's what impresses me so much about Etgar Keret. What most short fiction authors can do in twelve pages, he is able to do in three. Keret possesses a sort of writerly discipline I both admire and covet. For, lo, but I do tend to be verbose.

But my failings aside, The Nimrod Flipout is one of the more unusual things I've read in quite some time, and I mean that as a high compliment. Keret's lightening-quick stories (there's 30 of them in this 167 page collection) are fairly outlandish: one man loves his beautiful girlfriend all the more for the fat, brutish man she turns into at night; a boy is desperate to cure himself of a disease that causes his parents to shrink with every inch he grows; a talking fish provides perspective to the man who had hoped to make it his supper; a father-to-be is so anxious his child won't live up to his hopes that he dreams it into a pony. Keret's imaginative, to say the least.

One may expect such bizarre premises to turn comical, and they sometimes do, but I often found myself bracing for a joke that never materialized. And this was in no way a fault. What begins as silly often turns thoughtful, poignant, or downright sad, and considerably deeper than the offbeat premise had me prepared for.  It's perhaps understandable that Keret, an Israeli, weaves terrorism throughout the collection, but it's handled subtly and his stories are neither religious nor political. Instead, and despite all their strangeness, Keret's stories are oddly universal and his characters easy to empathize with.

In sum, I enjoyed this offbeat little book more than a little bit. Should your tastes lean towards the whimsical, you may do well to check it out.

Etgar Keret
(Translated from the Hebrew by Miriam Shlesinger and Sondra Silverston)
167 pages, 2006 (Paperback)

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Blogger Mary said...

He sounds almost Vonnegutesque. (I've always wanted to say that and have it be appropriate! Am I right?)

Blogger Mrs. White said...

Unlike Vonnegut, Keret isn't really a satirist, but other than that, yeah - I suppose you could call his style "Vonnegutesque." Perhaps that's why I like it. I loves me some Vonnegut!

But speaking of Vonnegut, I've currently got a review of George Saunders' In Persuasion Nation baking in the oven, and it's a title for which your term is wholly appropriate.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the name of the book (and the cover) -- awesome! The stories sound very postmodern.

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