Review: Fly Already by Etgar Keret

My first fully completed Etgar Keret collection read in Hebrew, courtesy of the lovely librarian at my local library! (Previously read in English: The Seven Good Years, Suddenly, a Knock on the Door, & The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God.) Fly Already contains twenty-two character-driven short stories, circling different introspections on our thoughts through daily-life observations and reflection.

I took quite the journey for this latest Etgar Keret book to land in my hands, but here I am after having had quite a blast reading through the pages. The writer’s clever awareness of his surroundings hooked me in from the start. It’s present, in particular, with stories such as, “GooDeed” (which challenges economic privileges), “Pineapple Crush” (which shows the subtle importance of human connection and an ode to beautiful sunsets), “Pitriyah” (which breaks the fourth wall by voicing exactly my thoughts upon reading certain reveals) & “Don’t Do It!” (which brings a man’s journey full circle).

Everything was flowing all nice and dainty, until I came across the story “Tabula Rasa,” that pretty much made all the author’s hard work go down the drain, for me…

The book stooped so low so to manipulate the reader into emotionally identifying with a character presented as “A” and his situation of being locked up in an institution, when all he wants is to escape with his friend, Nadia. It all comes down to this: only to settle for the hurried reveal that “A” was bred and cloned to give a Holocaust survivor a sliver of peace by avenging his family murdered by Hitler’s Nazis. “A” then, of course, stands for Adolf Hitler, who in the meantime has been given a uniform and facial trim to match… Truly, what a cheap, distasteful joke to make of a ruthless dictator responsible for the deaths of millions. The writer makes a complete joke out of the survivor (what even was the look of making him practically beg “A” to be fearful of meeting his end) by sending the message that trying to chase after Hitler to avenge your family perished in the Holocaust is not worth it; move on, already. The audacity it takes to reverberate this mockery to thousands of readers worldwide makes me want to shout, which is why I’m writing this review.

“The world needed to be reminded that monsters were still at large.”  x

I still can’t wrap my head around this ridicule. How can someone write such an intensely sensitive piece of writing just a few pages ago, only to now write about Hitler through manipulatively hidden clues to make us actually feel sorry for him in the end? This warped mindset, especially from a Jew whose parents are survivors, gave me heebie-jeebies.

It’s textbook Stockholm syndrome that makes victims want to grow close into the confines of the enemy as a defense mechanism, so that in another lifetime they won’t be abolished: Keret’s ending came across as “if I show Hitler (imah shmo) in an emphatic light then surely he wouldn’t have hunted down and annihilated my nation.” It’s the same syndrome that led another Israeli-Jew to recklessly exhibit Hitler’s paintings at Haifa’s gallery ‘Pyramida’, which is funded by the Ministry of Education, aka making tax-paying Israeli-Jews (which, incidentally, homes more or less 200,000 Holocaust survivors) pay for showing the devil’s work.

The way these syndrome victims move on is to befriend the enemy and forgo all moral values in the process, and it’s a powerful statement to the horrors of Stockholm syndrome. If you find something (a painting, a book, a statue) more important than human morality, it’s a sign that you’re taking a part in this virus; when brilliancy trumps harmfulness to society, you’re in danger.

Another point that hit me repeatedly throughout the collection was the author’s quite obvious need to appeal to the masses and acquire more international readers by presenting numerous stories set in the West to make it easier for his translators to adapt. I’m pretty sure that the only readers that care to repeatedly venture into his work are either Jews, Israelis, or both… so I personally would’ve appreciated stories that remained close to his roots since those are where he shines best.

bookspoilsbookspoilsbookspoils star (What even were the redeeming qualities? Scrolls back to first paragraph

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Review: Cucumber Quest: The Doughnut Kingdom by Gigi D.G.

cucumber quest 1-- bookspoilsI nearly jumped with joy at the sight of this book on my library shelves, which made quite the show for my little sister accompanying me that day. This is just the perfect read to share with your younger sibling.

What happens when an evil queen gets her hands on an ancient force of destruction?

World domination, obviously.

The seven kingdoms of Dreamside need a legendary hero. Instead, they’ll have to settle for Cucumber, a nerdy magician who just wants to go to school. As destiny would have it, he and his way more heroic sister, Almond, must now seek the Dream Sword, the only weapon powerful enough to defeat Queen Cordelia’s Nightmare Knight.

Can these bunny siblings really save the world in its darkest hour?

Sure, why not?

It didn’t take all too long for this book to impress me at once. Cucumber Quest is the perfect combination of featuring visually stunning art, hilarious one-liners, and fully-fleshed characters.cucumber quest 2-- bookspoils THAT LAST PANEL MADE ME LAUGH OUT LOUD.

I appreciated how this book veered from the usual “heroic” arc and tackles often-used (ridiculous) tropes* from fairytales with creative and playful jabs. Cucumber Quest not taking itself too serious was a highlight, for sure. Also, the self-empowerment in Almond, the little sister, impressed me, as well, because who said little sisters can’t be the hero of the story. Through her character, the idea of a knight in shining armor is spun on its head.

Again, I have to emphasize the rich, dreamy, and vibrant coloring which makes for quite the visual to hold in your hands. I mean:cucumber quest 3-- bookspoils

cucumber quest 6-- bookspoilscucumber quest 7-- bookspoilsAnd:

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*Tackled tropes include:

  • The villain making those long speeches before acting with his fists.cucumber quest 4-- bookspoilsFirst, that “instant replay” is epic. Second, Almond is a hero.
  • Making the mission harder for the sake of Drama.cucumber quest 7-- bookspoils

Her self-confidence is both aspiring and troubling because it costs them dearly.

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 09.46.55There’s more to the story than meets the eye, and I’m forevermore shocked that it left of such a cliffhanger. Essentially this first volume builds up the ground for the upcoming adventures awaiting this group, and I’m keen on diving in.

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Review: How to Talk So Teens Will Listen & Listen So Teens Will Talk

I wholeheartedly stand behind the belief that through our interactions with children we can learn how to behave respectfully to our surroundings; patience, kindness, and acceptance should be shown to all.

So, picking up this book at the library (where I coincidentally discovered the shelf full of psychology reads I’m about to devour!!) felt like the natural next step in learning more about our methods of communication. Also, I have a nine-year-old sister at home who I want to feel like she’s being listened to as an equal, which is where this book came in handy.

How can I express my honest feelings in a way that will make it possible for the other person to hear me and even consider what I have to say?

I was beyond keen on making sure I’d implement the many useful pieces of advice offered in this quick read: The emphasis put on simply listening and making sure they know you’re on their side, the importance of acknowledging the kid’s emotions and not brushing them off, accusing vs. describing feelings, giving tips on problem-solving, being conscious in your word choice because truth without morality is not truth. Like this brilliant quote I read from Haim Ginott:

“Truth for its own sake can be a deadly weapon in family relations. Truth without compassion can destroy love. Some parents try too hard to prove exactly how, where and why they have been right. This approach will bring bitterness and disappointment. When attitudes are hostile, facts are unconvincing.”

These instances helped me understand the best:

  • Why our “natural” response tends to minimize their emotions:

“I also think it’s natural,” I said, “for parents to push away painful or upsetting feelings. It’s hard for us to listen to our teenagers express their confusion or resentment or disappointment or discouragement. We can’t bear to see them unhappy. So it’s with the best of intentions that we dismiss their feelings and impose our adult logic. We want to show them the ‘right’ way to feel.”

The ultimate goal of a parent is to reach the stage where their kid will have the confidence to listen to themselves and make responsible choices on their own.

“That’s the big challenge,” I said. “To shift our thinking from ‘how do I fix things?’ to ‘how do I enable my kids to fix things for themselves?’ ”

  • On the negative connotations of punishment; opting to use alternatives such as #1 State your feelings. #2 State your expectations. #3 Show how to make amends. #4 Offer a choice. #5 Take action.”

“When you punish a kid, you close the door on him. He’s got no place to go. It’s a done deal. But when you take action, the kid might not like the action, but the door is still open. He still has a chance. He can face up to what he did and try to fix it. He can turn a ‘wrong’ into a ‘right.’ ”

Also: the four-panel comics really brought the ideas to life:How to Talk So Teens Will Listen & Listen So Teens Will Talk 1-- bookspoils

Instead of Angry Reprimands

How to Talk So Teens Will Listen & Listen So Teens Will Talk 2-- bookspoils

When Praising Kids

Instead of Evaluating …How to Talk So Teens Will Listen & Listen So Teens Will Talk 3-- bookspoils

How to Talk So Teens Will Listen & Listen So Teens Will Talk 4-- bookspoils

In short:

  • Feelings matter. Not just your own, but those of people with whom you disagree.
  • Civility matters. Anger can be expressed without insult.
  • Words matter. What you choose to say can cause resentment or generate goodwill.
  • Punishment has no place in a caring relationship. We’re all people in process—capable of making mistakes and capable of facing our mistakes and making amends.
  • Our differences needn’t defeat us. Problems that seem insoluble can yield to respectful listening, creativity, and persistence.
  • We all need to feel valued. Not only for who we are now, but for who we can become.”

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