The Nimrod Flipout by Etgar Keret

nimrod%20flipout.jpgI am not much of a short story reader. Not really sure why. I think I have always been a plot and character kinda guy and so have focused on the novel form (although, I do enjoy novellas). For whatever reason, the short story form hasn’t been a big part of my reading experience.

Given this, I am not sure how I became aware of The Nimrod Flip-Out, but it somehow came to my attention and I was intrigued – perhaps by the interesting cover. So when I stumbled upon it at Half-Price Books I picked it up. Interestingly enough, I read the book in the unique location that has been discussed recently by Mark Sarvas.

I am hard pressed to describe this collection from one of Israel’s most famous writers (in a country with of only five million Hebrew readers, Keret’s four collections of stories have sold more than 200,000 copies), but this description from an Observer interview does it pretty well:

. . . The Nimrod Flip-Out, a collection of 32 short, short stories that perfectly captures the craziness of life in Israel today. Rarely extending beyond three or four pages, they fuse the banal with the surreal, shot through with a dark, tragicomic sensibility and casual, comic-strip violence.

One interesting point, at least to me, is that the first story may adversely impact one’s enjoyment of the collection. The story, entitled Fatso, describes a man whose girlfriend every night turns into a “heavy, hairy man, with no neck, with a gold ring on his pinkie.” The story describes how the girlfriend shows up in tears wanting to confess a dark secret and the boyfriend promising to love her no matter what – convinced it is likely no big deal. His plan to be the supportive and loving boyfriend works out at first. They both cry and have passionate sex, but afterwords he is a little worried to find out that her secret comes true. One minute he is with his beautiful girlfriend, the next he is with an overweight, and rather vulgar soccer fan. But out of guilt or curiosity, or both, he ends up hanging out with the guy and enjoying himself. They eat steaks, drink beer, and watch soccer. It seem like the perfect relationship: half the day he has a beautiful and loving girlfriend the other half he has a rough and tumble male friend.

This story is a hilarious description of the male point of view and it starts the book off with a bang. The rest of the stories, however, are not quite funny in the same rather straight forward way. If you are expecting more of the same, you might be disappointed. The rest of the stories lean a little bit more in the direction of the absurd and existential.

I wasn’t disappointed exactly but it took me a while to realize that all of the stories weren’t going to be so conventionally humorous. I was also confused when none of the stories seemed to relate to the unique cover art.

I am not going to even try to unpack the other stories. Suffice it to say if you enjoy brief, compact, and quirky stories that explore the often absurd nature of everyday life, you will enjoy The Nimrod Flipout. I certainly enjoyed having something short and entertaining to read in “my office.”

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

1 Comment

  1. Ok, this is the first time I have ever read something I was really displeased with, (enough to comment on). I think the oddity of the first short story “FATSO” set my bar quite high in finding humor in the rest of Keret’s short stories. There were moments throughout these essays that could make one chuckle to one’s self but it mostly gave me this offset, creepy, yucky feeling of peeking at the worlds underbelly and not liking what I saw.

    I actually got online to learn more about the author and if I hadn’t I doubt I would have ever read the book all the way through. It makes me wonder about all the rave reviews Israel is giving; weather it is an accurate feeling this book gives off of life there. Or just dark, twisted, perverse worlds Keret had to create to make his own existence more livable. I feel sorry for all most all the characters and found when reading it that my journey through life was never that depressing (even when my depression forced me seek out professional help).

    I think what I am trying to say here is that for the most part this book is devoid of hope and lets face it, when you’re 6 months pregnant nobody wants to read that kind of crap.

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