Monday, December 21, 2015

Best of 2015: Etgar Keret

One of the many items [old and new] enjoyed by Burbank Public Library staff during 2015, recommended for your consideration:

Reviewed by Anush B.,
Reference Librarian

I read many great books this year, most of which I've reviewed here. My favorite ones published this year were Bone Gap, The Tightrope Walkers, and Fates and Furies. However, one book that I thought was absolutely magnificent was Israeli writer Etgar Keret's new book, a collection of essays called
The Seven Good Years. I did not review this book for several reasons, one of them being that I did not feel like I could do justice to describing Keret's voice. When I first picked up his short story collection, Suddenly, a Knock at the Door, I fell in love with his writing. ​Each very short story in the collection was strange, haunting, hilarious, and unique, and expertly translated from the original Hebrew by Nathan Englander, among others.

I enjoyed The Seven Good Years even more, because it is a collection of short personal essays that showcase Keret's immense talent and bring him closer to the reader. There are stories here that are laugh-out-loud funny, like "Bird's Eye," in which he relates the conversation wherein he and his wife try to explain the game Angry Birds to his skeptical mother. Another of my favorites is "Fat Cats," in which he describes his young son's expert manipulation skills in explaining why he can have sweets at school while other kids cannot by uttering my favorite line in the whole book, "Because I'm not a kid...I'm a cat." This helps him understand why well-meaning, successful people commit crimes of stealing and embezzling. He says, "Those men, just like my son, cheat and steal and lie only because they are sure they are cats. And as adorable, furry, cream-loving creatures, they don't have to abide by the same rules and laws all those sweaty two-legged creatures around them have to obey." But while this book is brimming with wit and humor, Keret always manages to expertly stir us toward deeper subjects like war, religion, and politics.

Keret wrote this collection in English and did not publish it in Israel, the reason being that he felt more comfortable with sharing such intimate details of his life with strangers rather than with his neighbors, as he explained in an interview with NPR. ​Whether you like essays or short stories, Keret is definitely a writer worth reading if you are craving a fresh, witty, wholly relatable voice.

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