Friday, July 8, 2011

Short Story: 'Breaking the Pig' by Etgar Keret; and a Commentary on Etgar Keret and 'The Nimrod Flipout'

Short Story: "Breaking the Pig" by Etgar Keret; and a Commentary on Etgar Keret and The Nimrod Flipout

Deborah Hunn introduced me to Etgar Keret with "Breaking the Pig". It was shorter than what I customarily like but its honest style was refreshing and it touched me with the way in which it revealed some simple truths.

It's the story of a quirky boy who has been encouraged by his parents to save coins in a porcelain piggybank. A growing dilemma ensues between buying the treasured Bart Simpson doll or keeping the Piggy Bank, which he has grown fond of. 

Having loved the story, I went a ‘Kereting’. But only discovered one of his anthologies in all of the Perth stores. I bought that book,The Nimrod Flipout, but found many of the 'titbit' stories didn’t quite satisfy my literary appetite. 

The tales are satirical and witty but their limited length prevents them from being what I’d call ‘well composed narratives’. Keret is often more captivated by a story’s concept rather than its actual execution; which causes much of his writing to feel like ‘telling’ summaries of innovative ideas. His flash fiction does, however, illustrate an important insight into modern day Israeli society.  Although there were a few stories that I really admired – the surrealism of Keret’s shorts still make The Nimrod Flipout a worthwhile read - I never found one that quite matched the sheer pleasure I felt on reading "Breaking the Pig".

Keret has been deservedly published in two of my favourite American literary journals: McSweeney’s Quarterly and Zoetrope’s: All Story. I think that Etgar Keret is best read like this – in a collection with other writers; or if you pick up a short story by him on the odd occasion rather than read his work straight through. A little bit of Keret now and then, like a smidgen of vegemite (or caviar for the connoisseur), does wonders, but too much can deaden the effect. 

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