April 13, 2010
Israeli short story writer Etgar Keret inspires, jokes, reads new work and more in Santa Monica
Last night, during an interview and Q-and-A session with Israeli short story writer and filmmaker Etgar Keret, held by Birthright Israel at Bergamot Station, a Santa Monica art gallery, Keret gave me goosebumps (the good kind). Answering a question about his writing process, Keret said that he writes when he doesn’t want to go out and doesn’t want to stay at home.
I have since told two friends of mine. They both agreed that what Keret said was awesome.
One of them even wrote it down.
Surrounded by nonsensical artwork and photographs, the night of April 12, after a short reception with free wine and cheese, Keret—hair uncombed and wearing a button-down shirt untucked with loose-fitting jeans—sat for an interview with his old friend Luke Davies, an Australian author.
When Davies asked Keret how his son was doing, Keret said fat and fascist—but he also said that one of the only times he’s fully “present” is when he’s playing with his son (the other times are when he’s writing or getting a foot massage).
Birthright Next commissioned Keret to come to L.A. for the event.
Keret read a couple of new short stories from a book that will be available in Israel shortly (he didn’t say what the title is). He also showed clips from his films “Jellyfish,”—which he co-directed with his wife—along with “$9.99” and “What About Me?”
During a reading of his first short story, in which a guy holds a gun to Keret’s head and tells him to write a story (it’s fictional), I realized what makes many of Keret’s stories great: They have people acting calm in ridiculous situations, which creates humor.
Goran Dukic, the director of “Wristcutters,” sat in the audience. The film, which starred Shannyn Sossymon and Tom Waits and was about people who kill themselves only to end up in a place just like earth, only slightly worse, was an adaptation of Keret’s short story “Kneller’s Happy Campers.”
Originally, Keret explained, a French director was supposed to adapt “Happy Campers.” When Keret told a contact of the director’s that he was going to let Dukic do it, the French director had a stroke – but the stroke was unrelated, Keret said.
Still, Keret continued, as a second generation Jew, I felt very responsible.
We’re friends now, and he’s well, Keret said.
In Keret’s film, “$9.99,” a gun popped up again. A homeless guy holds a gun to his head and threatens to pull the trigger if another guy in a suit doesn’t give him a dollar. To which the guy in the suit tells the homeless guy that he’s being manipulative.
If this sounds cool to you, check out Keret’s “The Girl on the Fridge,” which has politically incorrect but touching and humorous short stories – some of them not even a page long.