cover image Fly Already

Fly Already

Etgar Keret, trans. from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston et al. Riverhead, $27 (224p) ISBN 978-1-59463-327-0

Keret (The Seven Good Years) balances gravitas and drollery in this collection of 23 pieces. Stories often begin with declarative sentences—“I celebrate the kid’s birthday the day after.”—that presume an intimacy with the reader and immediately engage. Many are very short; “Evolution of a Breakup,” “At Night,” “The Next-to-Last Time I Was Shot Out of a Cannon,” each capture a moment of emotional complexity. Longer stories start with that same directness and add complications. “Tabula Rasa” begins with the explanation of a frightening recurrent dream rooted in academia and ends with echoes of the Holocaust. In “Crumb Cake,” Mom is grumbling because her 50-year-old son is unsatisfied with the birthday cake she has made him. As a lunch celebration plays out, deeper fissures in their relationship are revealed. The longest story, “Pineapple Crush,” begins with “the first hit of the day” and follows the tumultuous life of a functioning drug addict who has a job working with an after-school program. Peppered throughout the book is an email thread about terrorism, Nazism, and UFOs; it’s the most unconventional story of all, bringing home the idea that the personal is political. The endlessly inventive Keret finds the truth underlying even the simplest human interactions. (Sept.)