A kaleidoscopic assortment of exact, affecting and richly comic stories from the bestselling Israeli author (The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God, 2001, etc.).
Many of the 30 stories in this collection are almost brief enough—and resonant enough—to qualify as poems. “Dirt” opens as a comic riff, with the narrator imagining starting a chain of laundromats, then becomes a sweet, elegant meditation on love. In “Eight Percent of Nothing,” an apartment broker is unexpectedly roped into learning about the breakdown of a marriage. “Fatso” manages to turn its ridiculous setup—a man discovers that his girlfriend transforms into a crass, burly soccer fan after dark—into sharp commentary on identity and male bonding. None of those three tales exceeds ten pages in length, and brevity is their crucial element. Keret attaches a great deal of weight to what’s said in a story’s closing sentences, which is a risky tactic if he has broader ambitions; he’s yet to publish a full-length novel, and it’s easy to see how one might be unsuccessful. But here he’s in full command of his powers, capable of tackling his chief concerns—sex, youth, family, romantic attachments and detachments—from a variety of angles. That’s true even when he does crack ten pages: In the title story, three friends are haunted by the ghost of a dead buddy, and Keret precisely renders the emotional relationship between each of the men, earning the story’s beautifully tragicomic kicker. He’s not perfect: “The Tits of an Eighteen-Year-Old” is an obvious commentary about male boorishness, and “More Life” is a limp fable about infidelity. But unlike many short-story writers, Keret doesn’t drown his weaker ideas in puffed-up pages of workshopped prose—he keeps his observations raw, confident and direct.
A funny and keen chronicler of human foibles, perfecting his craft.