Israeli author Etgar Keret joins literary commentator Hannah Tinti for a look at three stories about strange encounters and new beginnings.
Etgar Keret is an award-winning writer and filmmaker. His books have been published in thirty-one languages in thirty-five countries, and his stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Paris Review and One Story. His most recent story collection is Suddenly a Knock at the Door.
The program begins with Keret’s own “Healthy Start,” a story based on a real event in the author’s life, but one that typically moved in a strange and emotionally revealing direction. The narrator, abandoned by his wife, spends each morning in a coffee shop, and one day begins a campaign of bizarre impersonations that, according to Keret, help him to reconnect to the human race. He likens the experience to writing, where sometimes the writer’s fictional world “beats loneliness.”
“Healthy Start” was performed by SHORTS regular Michael Tucker—best known for the long-running television series L.A. Law—at the Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls, New York.
That program also yielded a strange and beautiful tale by Ann Beattie, “Hoodie in Xanadu,” read by Tucker’s wife Jill Eikenberry, who also starred in L.A. Law.
“I love this title,” says Hannah Tinti, “and the way it combines something of the street with something magical (Xanadu being a reference to the summer palace of Mongolian emperor Kubla Khan that inspired the famous poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.) Keret said he wished he had an aunt like the wry female narrator, whose next store neighbor reveals an unexpected secret life, and in one unusual night, changes hers.
Ann Beattie has been included in four O. Henry Award Collections and in John Updike’s The Best American Short Stories of the Century. In 2000, she received the PEN/Malamud Award for achievement in the short story form, and in 2005, she received the Rea Award for the Short Story. Her most recent book is Mrs. Nixon. “Hoodie in Xanadu” was originally published in The Paris Review.
The SELECTED SHORTS Commissioning Project highlights the works of up-and-coming writers, and listeners who enjoyed Juan Martinez’s hilarious spoof on theme restaurants, “Customer Service at the Karaoke Don Quixote,” will be happy to hear his “Best Worst American” in which a former teenage slacker encounters the woman who changed his life—in Wal Mart.
Keret says he loves stories that start, like this one, in a state of high emotion that the listener can’t quite interpret—”all the while you’re wondering what exactly is going on.”
Tinti has praise for the way Martinez has turned the big-box chain into a landscape, with “rivers of meat” and “a wilderness of bicycles.”
Juan Martinez is a visiting assistant professor of English at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. He was born and raised in Colombia but has since lived in Orlando, Florida and Las Vegas Nevada. His work has appeared in Glimmer Train, McSweeney’s, Redivider, The Santa Monica Review, and Sudden Fiction Latino.
“Best Worst American” was performed by Cristin Milioti star of the Broadway musical Once. LISTEN TO THE SHOW
Listen to Hannah Tinti’s interview with Etgar Keret: