Suddenly, a Knock on the Door

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“You want a knock on the door? Okay, have your knock on the door. Just so long as it brings us a story.”

Suddenly a Knock on the Door is a collection of short stories by Etgar Keret. These stories are funny, absurd and occasionally heart-wrenching. I first heard about this book on the This American Life podcast called “Switcheroo” (http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/468/switcheroo?act=1#play), so if you would like to get a feel for Keret’s writing that is a good place to start. His style and subject vary from story to story, so instead of evaluating the collection as a whole I have decided to describe my two favorite pieces:

“Hemorrhoid” is extremely short–less than two pages. In this story, a man who suffers from a hemorrhoid decides that instead of hating his hemorrhoid, he should treat it like his conscience. Eventually he becomes more hemorrhoid than human, but his lingering human presence teaches the hemorrhoid “it could live and let live, it could learn to forgive.” (Keret includes these simplistic rhymes throughout the story, which is the main reason why I liked it so much.) Keret also uses parallelism to create humor, beginning the first paragraph with “This is the story of a man who suffered from a hemorrhoid” and beginning the last paragraph with “This is the story of a hemorrhoid that suffered from a man.”

“Pick a Color” is ostensibly a story about race. The repetition of colors and the absence of character names emphasize the racial tension in this story. For instance, the main character is a black man who lives in “a black house with a black porch where he used to sit every morning and drink his black coffee.” The black man marries a white woman, and they confront discrimination and violence from white men and brown men. The emphasis of the story changes from race to religion when the black man’s wife is stabbed in the street, and at her funeral the black man yells at the yellow priest who married them. He accuses the priest of lying: “You told us that God loves us. If he loves us, why did he do such a terrible thing to us?” The priest, in turn, curses God for the couple’s misfortune. But the story takes an interesting turn when God himself arrives at the church, and the yellow priest and the black man realize that by seeing people and even God in a different way, they are able to see themselves in a different way.

Overall, I am not sure how I felt about this collection. I really love the two stories I mentioned, and the rest were either enjoyable or simply okay–I do not think I loathed any of them. I would not recommend this to anyone younger than high school age because of the foul language and mild sexual content. Other than that, I would definitely suggest it to anybody! I am curious to know what others might think of it.

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