The Short Review

shining the spotlight on short story collections

"Lumbering" stories

This is from a review in this month’s BookSlut of Israeli writer Etgar Keret’s most recent collection:

In early 21st century short fiction, originality is rare. The lumbering “short stories” published in The New Yorker or nominated for the Pushcart Prize or anthologized in various “Best Of” collections often seem familiar, like we’ve read them already. I find myself giving some leeway to these vaguely derivative little missives from mentees to their mentors. After all, we live in a world of billions of words, many of them tired out from overuse. If a story is true, and revelatory, and makes the reader feel something — if it creates a world — isn’t that original enough? But too often, those prize-winning stories don’t hold up to any test of quality at all. They don’t deserve to be written, and who knows why they’re so celebrated? Maybe it’s precisely because of their familiarity, because certain styles and themes have worn a groove into contemporary literature.


Finally someone has said it – “lumbering” seems to me the perfect way to describe these what I call “mini-novels” that are published by the New Yorker etc…I read the first paragraph of most stories and I definitely feel I’ve read it before, I know what kind of story lies in wait over the next few pages – parent-child tension, romantic problems, bla bla bla.

Keret is a shining example of a writer who employs the short form to work magic, to do something that cannot be done in a novel, with a stunning economy of words and with wit and compassion. This is what the short story should be all about. Read the Short Review’s review of Keret’s Gaza Blues (together with Samir el-Yousseff) here, and the rest of the Bookslut review here Bookslut | The Girl on the Fridge by Etgar Keret

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This entry was posted on April 7, 2008 by in books, reviews, short stories.
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