19 May 08 | Chad W. Post

This is the fourth entry in our series covering all twenty-five Reading the World 2008 titles. Write-ups of the other titles can be found here. And information about the Reading the World program—a special collaboration between publishers and independent booksellers to promote literature in translation throughout the month of June—is available at the official RTW website.

With the release of The Nimrod Flipout a couple years back (another Reading the World title), Etgar Keret started receiving heaps of praise as one of the great young Israeli writers. He’s hip, young (just over 40), and his stories were featured on This American Life and Selected Shorts and in Zoetrope: All Story. And he’s been blurbed by such diverse writers as Salman Rushdie, Clive James, Neal Stephenson, and Amos Oz.

(This isn’t to say that Keret wasn’t already building a reputation pre-Nimrod. The first book of his to appear in English translation was The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God & Other Stories, which came out from St. Martin’s in 2001.)

This new title— The Girl on the Fridge —is actually a collection of early Keret stories that sound as odd and surreal as the ones in Nimrod Flipout.

Here’s the FSG description:

A birthday-party magician whose hat tricks end in horror and gore; a girl parented by a major household appliance; the possessor of the lowest IQ in the Mossad—such are the denizens of Etgar Keret’s dark and fertile mind. The Girl on the Fridge contains the best of Keret’s first collections, the ones that made him a household name in Israel and the major discovery of this last decade.

And the book has been getting pretty good reviews. Just yesterday in the New York Times Joseph Weisberg gave it a mixed review:

From the beginning, the most unmistakable aspect of Keret’s style has been the length of his stories. Averaging about three pages, each presents a single fully formed incident, often surreal. In one of the stories in “The Girl on the Fridge,” a man waiting on the street hears from a passerby that the buses are all dead. When he goes to the central bus station, he sees “hundreds scattered all over the place, rivulets of fuel oozing out of their disemboweled shells, their shattered innards strewn on the black and silent asphalt.” The story manages to be both whimsical and deeply serious, a flight of fancy built around an image from the very real world of suicide bombings. [. . .]

If you haven’t read Keret, start with his 2006 collection, “The Nimrod Flipout.” It shows him more fully in command, better able to connect his style to the emotion that lies beneath.

After reading that book, you’re likely to be a Keret fan, maybe a big enough one to wonder how his singular talent first took shape. That’s the time to read The Girl on the Fridge.

So it looks like there are two Keret books to read . . . And although it’s a ways off, in January, this title will be the featuring Words Without Borders/Reading the World book club book.

For more info on Keret, he was interviewed on All Things Considered a couple weeks back, and the segment is available online.

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