Review: “The New Yorker” January 2, 2012 Fiction

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“Creative Writing” by Etgar Keret

Such a wonderfully layered piece, bizarre and mutedly beautiful.

After suffering a miscarriage, Maya signs up for a creative writing workshop, where she writes three stories, byproducts of her subconscious. “Isn’t it weird,” Maya bemusedly poses to her husband Aviad, “how my brain didn’t know yet, but my subconscious did?” Perhaps out of jealousy, he follows suit and joins a creative writing course as well, where he attempts to write his own story in the same automatic writing style.

Not much is revealed to us about Maya and Aviad on the surface–Keret masterfully restrains from spelling out any unease between them, save for a brief spat quickly made inconsequential (“She forgave him”). Instead what we are presented with are the couple’s four stories from which we can gather subtext regarding their marriage. It’s a beauty how Keret limns the jarring disconnect between the mundanity of their real world interactions and the evident turmoils in their fictions.

I found the synopses of the stories-within-the-story rather fascinating (too well-conceived magical realist stories or fairy tales perhaps, as it might have been more believable for two non-writers to produce cliched pap, the usual amateur writer fare–but where would the poetry be in that, I suppose). I loved the second story, in which only loved ones are visible to a person, which proves itself a complication in a loveless marriage (nice writerly conflict there, again making Maya not believable as a beginner writer). I was also taken by the melancholy of Aviad’s fish story. Here is a man transformed into something he never set out to be, but who has grown to accept it. Yet, despite habituating–just as perhaps Aviad himself has settled rather absently or passively into married life–there is always a residual longing for the sea.

Hauntingly beautiful stuff.

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