Suddenly, a Knock at the Door

Jacob Silverman with a solid review of Suddenly, a Knock at the Door by Edgar Keret and a nice critique of the whole flash fiction trend.

The problem with flash fiction is that much of it isn’t very good. Boosters like to say that So-and-so packs more into a thousand words than most writers do into a novel, but that’s almost never true—particularly when you consider that time spent with a novel, and all of the mental and emotional investment that that requires, is one of its principal features. Instead, most flash fiction is too brief and self-satisfied to strike more than one note. Often, it’s a joke told too long or a conceit that doesn’t become anything else. It’s literary tokenism, stories to be consumed between commercial breaks.

But back to Etgar Keret, who on his own seems to rehabilitate the genre. For twenty years, Keret has been writing deviously strange, fabulist stories, most of which are only a few pages long. (His closest American analog may be Donald Barthelme.) Keret has also collaborated with artists on graphic novels, written for film and television, and co-directed a very good movie, Jellyfish, with his wife, Shira Geffen. He’s now one of Israel’s most popular artists, and through his books and widely published personal essays, he has increasingly become known to English-speaking audiences.

Like Jacob, I don’t rule out flash fiction entirely, but I am a little suspicious at how it’s been seized at by the “short attention span” crowd.


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