All posts by blogoline

A Short Story By Etgar Keret

Etgar Keret is the author of some very strange and lovely short stories. Often his stories don’t conform strictly to the ‘real’, but dabble in alternative states of being and consciousnesses. Although his work is typically classified as flash fiction, it struck me as reminiscent of the new weird (and I thought we may be able to consider it, for our purposes, within the larger context of ‘soft’ science fiction). With this in mind, I would like to share and then discuss Keret’s short story, “Fatso”. It is very very short, I promise.

To read it, you can go here. Or if you would prefer to listen to Etgar read the story to you (I highly recommend this option), you can go here.

In the short story you just read/heard, a man describes how he has come to accept, and even love, the “heavy, hairy man, with no neck [and] a gold ring on his pinkie” (Keret 4) that his girlfriend turns into at night. The mechanics of the transformation are not explored (which prevents the story from entering the domain of ‘hard’ science fiction). However, the psychology of the transformation – the ‘soft’ science fiction – is central to the story.

In the story, we see that “the fatso” (Keret 5), although hidden from public gaze/the light of day, is a vital component of the woman’s self; the girlfriend possesses an inherent maleness – a crudeness, but also a vitality – that challenges preconceptions of demure feminine identity, complicating a one dimensional/stereotypical understanding of the “beautiful, forgiving woman” (Keret 6).

fatso lady

For this reason, the narrator’s acceptance of the “fatso” can be seen as an acceptance, or making whole, of the woman. Furthermore, it is important that the narrator, “who hardly knows what he wants most of the time” (Keret 6),  is able to find some meaning – some sense of investment and satisfaction – through caring for the “fatso” and about the soccer they share. This outcome not only emphasizes the fact that commonality can be found between all people, but also seems to suggest that an openness to that which is alien or ‘other’ can deepen relationships and enrich/invigorate one’s self.

fatso-300x248

I hope you enjoyed the story!

Works Cited

Keret, Etgar. “Fatso”. The Nimrod Flipout. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002. 3-6. Print.

Monsters and the Sublime

Lately, in class, we have been exploring the nature of the monster – looking specifically at how monstrosity may function to represent alterity, deviancy or otherness, to reveal sinister or corrupt aspects of the unconscious, to blur the boundary between the real and unknown, to reflect individual, societal or evolutionary anxieties, or to, aesthetically, induce fear or create an atmosphere of strangeness.
However, despite these many potential forms and meanings, it is interesting to consider how monsters are unified (and uniformly made effective) through a shared connection to the sublime.

monster chain

Colloquially, the sublime is used as a synonym for the enjoyable (for instance, it is not uncommon to hear a person refer to a tasty meal as ‘sublime’). However, Edmund Burke makes an important distinction between the sublime and the beautiful by emphasizing that the sublime transcends straightforward aesthetic or sensual pleasures, dwelling instead in extremities of pain, terror, danger, darkness and expanse.

hamburger and waterfall

Burke emphasizes that “whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime” (Burke 24). In addition, he observes that “to make any thing very terrible, obscurity seems in general to be necessary. When we know the full extent of any danger, when we can accustom our eyes to it, a great deal of the apprehension vanishes” (Burke 40).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Philosophical_Enquiry_into_the_Origin_of_Our_Ideas_of_the_Sublime_and_Beautiful

Considering our class’ recent discussions, it seems that our understanding of the monster is in agreement with this definition of the sublime; often posing a threat to physiological, psychological, social or aesthetic harmony, the monster is implicitly dangerous. Furthermore, the monster can be seen as meeting Burke’s requirement for obscurity. Slippery in definition, the monster occupies a sort of liminal space – a space in-between life and death, the known and unknown, the comprehensible and incomprehensible.

monster as edmund's sublime

If we consider monstrosity in this way – monstrosity as something sublime that creates an “overwhelming sense of awe or other high emotion through being vast or grand” (“Sublime”) – we may be able to gain insight into why the monster archetype is, inherently, so powerful. Perhaps the monster is successful at departing rich and diverse meaning in part because it is first able to arrest us through invoking this sense of awe. Perhaps before the monster is meaningful, it is sublime.

transcendent monster

Works Cited

Burke, Edmund. A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. 1759. New York: Dover, 2008. Print

“Sublime.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, October 2014. Web.