The Busdriver Who Wanted to be God & Other Stories
by Etgar Keret
Translated from Hebrew primarily by Miriam Schlesinger
Published by Thomas Dunne Books (a division of St . Martin's Press)
ISBN: 0-312-26-1888 (Hardcover; no softcover edition printed in the United States, as far as I can tell. Australian and British editions might be available.)
What an odd little book.
Etgar Keret is, as least was at one point, regarded as one of Israel's hippest authors. As far as I can tell, he published this collection of short stories in 2001 and a few other random fables shortly thereafter and then disappeared. In any event, this collection brings together a wonderful sampling of what the man's capable of as a writer - it's unfortunate that it doesn't include his most innovative stories.
Keret's stories are extremely short, almost fairy tales for adults - that is to say, they include all the fantastic elements of Mother Goose with healthy doses of sex, alcohol and rude behavior thrown in for flavor. They're extremely inventive and funny, taking the reader from a man who builds complicated arrangements of pipes to roll marbles through because...well, his reasoning's a bit on the murky side, to the hired gun hired to kill a man because he's too darn nice, to the boy who couldn't bear to break open his piggy bank because he considered it the best toy he'd ever had. It's not the words in and of themselves that are beautiful so much as it's the setup, the surreal twists of plot woven intricately around episodes of anthropomorphism. Busdriver is a great "sitting in the park eating lunch" type book, and should be enjoyed but not taken all that seriously.
Its only failing (and, to be fair, it's a failing that doesn't in any way make this collection any less enjoyable) is that it doesn't include two of his greatest stories, Fatso and Halibut (both of which are available as streaming audio online, read by Ira Glass, no less) but this might be rectified in an upcoming collection.