Adventures in Reading

The Girl on the Fridge by Etgar Keret

At work I discovered how to filter information about new releases and printed a copy of short story collections coming out over the next few months. I found a new author and new title with The Girl on the Fridge by Etgar Keret. Keret is an Israeli writer and Miriam Shlesinger and Sondra Silverston translated the collection from Hebrew. Going by the book jacket and review page everyone raves about Keret from Salman Rushdie to Miranda July to Yann Martel and I thought I couldn’t go wrong.

The Girl on the Fridge is a complex collection of 46 mostly two page long stories. Initially I was going to write that the really amazing, tightly written, and complex stories were all crowded into the first half of the book but now that I flip through the book I’m disagreeing with myself. The stories, which range from children’s birthday parties to war violence, all have a terrific attraction and voice. Certainly some of the earlier stories deliver effortless feeling that expands in your gut while seemingly avoiding your eyes and brain. Like “Asthma Attack,” a single paragraph story, that hashes over the importance of individual words for an asthmatic.

However, the latter half of this collection is certainly just as good. “Gulliver in Icelandic” explores the moment of relief upon discovering the familiar in the foreign.

There are some translation issues with the book such as in the story “World Champion” the narrator hits a man in the face with a “wrench” but in the following paragraph he drops a “screwdriver.” Or in “Loquat” there seems to be a missing verb or action as the narrator moves from a standing position to holding a boy down to the ground in the next line. None of these are truly distracting or harmful to the stories, but mistakes such as these had me rereading passages assuming I had missed some important action in the story.

Etgar Keret’s collection delivers a tantalizing disconnect with reality in each of his stories. There’s always something just off, even if only a fraction, which keeps the reader searching for the slice of abnormality stirred in with the normal. I warn you not to become lulled into scanning or treating these stories carelessly. Because of the short length of the stories and the book as a whole it’s tempting to sit down and crash through the collection; however, I spent an entire afternoon and evening dipping into Keret’s creativity and left feeling dazed and overwhelmed.