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Archive for March, 2013

Suddenly, A Knock on the Door by Etgar Keret (via amazon.com)

By Etgar Keret
Started:
January4, 2013
Finished: January 10, 2013

Have you ever seen the movie Wristcutters: A Love Story? (No? Well, go watch it. Now.)

It’s an indie flick based on a short story by Israeli author Etgar Keret. The main characters are people who commit suicide and their afterlives in what appears to be purgatory. But here’s the catch—their post-suicide lives are exactly the same as their old lives, just a little bit worse (seems like that would defeat the purpose of suicide, right?).

And it has a crazy-indie line up featuring: Patrick Fugit, Leslie Bibb, Will Arnett, the guy that plays Steve Buscemi’s brother on Boardwalk Empire, Shannyn Sossamon, Wil Arnett, and….Tom Waits (?) all-star in it.  Anyways, it’s based on long-ish short story written by Israeli author Etgar Keret.

I’m getting a little off topic but basically, this movie spoke to my indie-undergrad-outsider sensibilities; once I found out the film is based on an actual piece of literature, I immediately sought out the book. And to my surprise, it ‘s filled with wacky, wonderful, crazy, thought-provoking short stories.

So, when I was wondering around Strand Book Store in NYC a few weeks before Christmas and stumbled on Keret’s newest collection of short stories Suddenly, A Knock on the Door, I practically ran to the counter to purchase it.

And once again, Keret did not disappoint (“What Do We Have In Our Pockets” recently premiered at Sundance). Two selections in this collection of stories really stuck out to me: “Lieland” & “Pick a Color.”

“Lieland” tells the story of Robbie, a boy who can’t help lying. Some lies are big, some lies are small, but eventually all of his lies come back to haunt him: that sick uncle he used as an excuse ? He exists in the alternate reality of Lieland. The paralyzed German  Shepard he found on the side of the road? He lives in Lieland, too. It’s kind of poetic isn’t it? That our lies take on a life of their own, that there are consequences for everything we do? Even if we don’t see it.

In “Pick a Color,” everyone has a skin color. And this color defines more than just their race; it defines their whole life. The black man lives in a black house with a black porch and bleeds black blood when his white neighbors severely beat him. While recovering in the white hospital, he falls in love with a white woman in a white uniform. The characters in the book have lives defined by their skin color, and tragedy.

Personally, I define myself as an agnostic, but the image of “God” Keret presents in “Color” really resonated with me. God created these one-colored people steeped in tragedy because, like the black man, he too fell in love and is beaten nearly to death (by a group of formerly friendly golden gods who abandoned him), and left disabled and alone.  He created man in the only image he knew  and for selfish reasons: so he would no longer feel alone. The black man in the story doesn’t ask God but instead feels comforted by the notion that he is created in the image of a god (notice the switch from “G” to “g”).

These stories were symbolic, challenging, disturbing, though provoking, and genuinely fun. Though heavily steeped in Jewish/Israeli culture and themes (I consulted wikipedia more than once while reading), I highly recommend Keret’s new work. This was definitely a good book to start my year on & I’m excited to see where the rest of my reading journey takes me!

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