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New Yorker Fiction Review: "One Gram Short" by Etgar Keret

Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

Story: "One Gram Short"

Author: Etgar Keret

Rating: $

Review: A story will always get extra room in my heart for being lean, short, and quick to the point, as is this neat little tale by Israeli writer Etgar Keret. "One Gram Short" is my kind of fiction in that it's fast-moving with a lot of dialogue and deals with noir-ish material; in this case, a young Israeli man trying to get some weed so that he can ask his local barista -- on whom he has a crush -- if she wants to smoke, even though he doesn't smoke or know if she does. It's a basic Problem-Solution type story, with a cool bit of adolescent approach-avoidance thrown in at the end to give it a higher-minded, existential kind of feel.

I don't have a ton of analysis here, because it's not exactly the kind of story that merits a lot of analysis; it's the kind of story that's fun to read. Often times -- too often -- the stuff that's fun in the moment doesn't really stay with us. While I doubt there's anything from this story that will pop up in my head next week or next month or next year, I did like inhabiting Keret's main character's head here. I enjoyed the character's simplicity of mind, his resistance to adventure but his ultimate capitulation in order to get the job done:

"'Complicated' is not what I need at the moment. And, from what I remember back in high school, Avri's 'complicated's' are complicated indeed."

The main character's wish to avoid adventure is what endeared him to me, as well as his twisted logic that it's too complicated to ask his crush to a movie, so he'll go through all the trouble to find some weed, which he doesn't smoke, and then coolly ask his crush to smoke with him, which seems less committal. He's too chicken to ask her out, but he's not too chicken to try to procure weed and then ask her to smoke; he's a neurotic but a cool planner, an egotist with and inferiority complex, a walking contradiction. In other words, he's a human being...

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