From the Akashic Noir series
Edited by Etgar Keret and Assaf Gavron
Published by Akashic Books
U.S. Publication Date: October 7, 2014

Akashic Books has published dozens of anthologies of original noir short stories set in cities from Brooklyn to Tehran to Manila and Belfast. Now it has arrived in Tel Aviv. Writers Etgar Keret and Assaf Gavron have assembled some of Israel’s top contemporary writers into a delightfully dark, queasy, palpitating collection.

The fourteen stories are set all around Tel Aviv: Florentin, , Dizengoff, Rabin Square, a lobby of a swank hotel on Hayarkon. The stories fall into three sections: “Encounters,” “Estrangements” and “Corpses.” As Keret observes in the book’s introduction, the concept of noir in Tel Aviv may not be immediately understandable to readers, because T-A is one of the happiest, friendliest, most liberal cities in the world.

He writes, “…What could possibly be dark about our sunny city, a city nicknamed ‘The Bubble’ due to its sense of complete separation from the violent, conflicted country in which it is situated?”

But then Keret concedes a point: “Don’t get me wrong — Tel Aviv is a lovely, safe city. Most of the time, for most of its inhabitants. But the stories in this collection describe what happens the rest of the time, to the rest of its inhabitants.” They reveal, in Keret’s words, “the concealed, scarred face of this city that we love so much.”

(By the way: co-editor Gavron has another book, a novel, out in October, “The Hilltop” (translated by Steven Cohen; Scribner), in which the titular setting is the heart of a West Bank settlement; the novel won Gavron the 2013 Bernstein Prize in Israel.)

In one of my favorite stories, an attorney runs a legal newspaper that is supported by the revenue from ads from women who advertise their massage and other personal services. He isn’t a pimp per se, but he does take payment in forms other than money. He falls for a new customer who needs money fast due to her father’s gambling debts and the threats from a not so orthodox Orthodox loan shark. The story gets quite graphic and surprising, and includes all the delicious noir elements of bad cops and tough mobsters from the FSU.

As Ben Gurion sort of said, not only will the scientists be Jewish in a Zionist utopia, but so will the pimps and prostitutes.

The stories include
Part I: Encounters: “Sleeping Mask” by Gadi Taub (Beach Hotels Strip); “Women” by Matan Hermoni (Basel Street); “The Time-Slip Detective” by Lavie Tidhar (Rabin Square); “Slow Cooking” by Deakla Keydar (Levinsky Park)

Part II: Estrangements: “Clear Recent History” by Gon Ben Ari (Magen David Square); “Saïd the Good” by Antonio Ungar (Ajami, Jaffa); “Swirl” by Silje Bekeng (Rothschild Boulevard); “My Father’s Kingdom” by Shimon Adaf (Tel Kabir); “Who’s a Good Boy!” by Julia Farmentto (The Opera Tower)

Part III: Corpses: “The Tour Guide” by Yoav Katz (Neve Sha’anan); “Death in Pajamas” by Alex Epstein (Masarik Square); “The Expendables” by Gai Ad (Ben Zion Boulevard); “Allergies” by Etgar Keret (Florentin); “Center” by Assaf Gavron (Dizengoff Center)

* * * *

Also, today, Gary Shteyngart’s memoir of growing up Jewish in the USSR and NYC was published in paperback form. If you tweet him at @Shteyngart this about your own #LITTLEFAILURE, you can perhaps win a t-shirt and a copy of the book.

Cover of the hardcover, the new paperback has an awful cover

Cover of the hardcover, the new paperback has an awful cover

By Gary Shteyngart
Random House paperbacks
U.S. Paperback Publication Date: October 7, 2014

Gary (Igor) Shteyngart was born in Leningrad in 1972. A small asthmatic kid, he was nicknamed “Little Failure” or “Failurshka.” Nice, isn’t it? Better than his earlier name of “Snotty.” You think the USSR was bad? In his Hebrew School in Queens, he was bullied and labeled a freak. At Oberlin… not so much. (His parents changed his name to Gary from Igor so so he would “suffer one or two fewer beatings.”)

If you’ve read his hilarious, absurd novels (“The Russian Debutante’s Handbook,” “Absurdistan,” “Super Sad True Love Story”), you know that he puts some very weird and funny scenes about family relationships in them. (He wrote his first book at age five, a story of Lenin and His Magical Goose.) So many of his novels are from actual life events, so we get to see the reality on which they are based through his memoir. His grandmother used to bribe him with cheese so he would read. He voraciously learned to like both cheese and reading.

The book opens with the tale of his brief time as a Wall Street paralegal (I will skip the part of the failed circumcision). He farted too much, was too lazy, and probably smoked too much weed, and was fired from the firm. He did use his time on Wall Street wisely, however, and broowsed the 50cent books at the Strand bookstore’s annex at the South Street Seaport. But a mystery begins. In 1996, he suffers a panic attack at the Strand bookstore when he sees a picture of Leningrad’s Chesme Church on Lensovet Street in a used book. He remembers that as a child he and his father played with a toy helicopter there 22 yeas earlier. He freaks out and perspires. And thus begins his quest to learn why he freaked out so much and what happened there before he emigrated in ’79 to America. As we wait to find out what the deal in Leningrad was, we are treated to story of crazy depressive parents who never heard that you are supposed to love your child, drinking, a rewritten parody Torah, a father who tells the bedtime story of “Planet of the Yids,” immigration, schools, misunderstandings (you mean we did not really win $10 million from Publishers’ Clearing House), and the search for a career as a writer.

About the author



  • A message from Moishela, ??”?
    a handicapped child
    Chaf Tes Elul 5771
    Sept 28, ’11
    Erev Rosh Hashana ???”?

    Gevald! Gevald! Gevald! Gevald! Woe to us, woe to Am Yisrael and to the world. The time is drawing close. Coming at an amazing speed, the end of life as we know it is almost upon us but we are still asleep and refusing to wake up. The world has undergone many transitions in the last few years, tremendous changes, sinister changes. The population of the world feels this but the Jewish population feels it less.

    Seeing the end coming so fast, so close has brought out the greatest evil in mankind, especially the Goyim. As for the Jews that are Erev Rav, that evil is coming to the surface, in the strongest way. The true Jews are mostly still wandering around confused sometimes going on the side that’s connected moreto the good, to Ratzon Hashem and sometimes swaying back to the other side.

    I am just going to say this to all of the Jews, the end is definitely near. Hashem is sending us all kinds of warnings. Terrible things are being forecasted by the press, the media in all its aspects and in the end it has sort of a soft landing so-to-speak. This does not mean that Hashem has cancelled anything or sweetened any of the Dinim. No, it’s a warning plain and clear. At the end it hasn’t come to fruition the way we thought it would. But one day it will happen! One day soon we are going to be given the chance to be afraid, to wake up and to do Teshuva. For the most part most of the Jews are ignoring the message from Shamayim. Most of the Yidden prefer to believe that “soon we’ll go back to normal”. That will never be! That life that we lived with such a great amount of wealth and such an abundance has disappeared. That Gashmiusdik Egel HaZahav world that has turned us into cold heartless people is finished. Therefore Am Yisrael I beg you, I beg you go back to what was once. Go back to HaKodosh Boruch Hu. Go back to His Ratzon, to doing His Ratzon only! Let go of all the superficial adventures and desires that you have. Go back to the truth to the bare truth. Hashem is trying to bring it to you but you’re just ignoring it. With all the troubles and with all the signs and with all the things that are happening in the world that clearly point to the direction of catastrophe, very few are coming back to the Emes. Very few are trying to go back to being only an Eved Hashem, only doing Ratzon Hashem, or at least trying.

    Very few are getting the message, but one fine day you’re going to wake up to a very different world and nothing will help you then. I beg you. I beg you. What can I do? What else can I do? I can only beg you come back to Hashem, not the superficial type of Yiddishkeit that you’re building, but the true Yiddishkeit. Clean up the streets of the Frum community. Put Tznius back with men and women. Put back the love of Hashem, the true love of Hashem. Put back true Chessed. Stop the terrible lack of Shmiras Halashon. Come back to Hashem, really. Your streets are still full of disgusting things, lack of Tznius of terrible terrible Goyishe things. Clean it up, clean it up, clean up your minds and your hearts, and come back to the truth. Those who ignore my warnings will suffer greatly but if they are true Jews they will be saved. The rest willnever be able to open their hearts to HaKodosh Boruch Hu.

    Time is moving on. In the last five years, or even more, Hashem has been warning us with the greatest catastrophes that ever were in history. But because we personally weren’t injured by it, even if we don’t have jobs and we have to live on borrowed money and so on and so forth, but we still have what to eat and a place to live so we are just more or less ignoring it again. I warn you, one fine day you will wake up and the world will be incomprehensible to you and that will be the end.

    I feel that we are coming so very close to the end. I feel it in all of my body. My brain is suffused with the thought of it. My heart beats rapidly because of the fear I have from the great awakening. It is very very frightening I don’t know what to say more. I’m sorry, Mommy if I caused you trouble, but I’m very, very upset, very upset by it. I’m afraid for all of us for all the Yidden even though many of us will survive. Still it won’t be easy, very frightening. Again, I can feel it coming very strongly.

    Q: Why were you crying so much this morning?
    A: I cry in the morning because at night I’m constantly thinking about what’s in store for this world, not only the Yidden, but certainly for the whole world. It’s very frightening to me. At night I try to hold back my tears. I try to fall asleep, and when I finally fall asleep, I dream about it. And when I wake up in the morning, when I’m not afraid to wake you up any more, I cry and cry and cry.

    Q: What do we have to know for Rosh Hashanah?
    A: For this Rosh Hashanah we have to know what I just told everyone, that the end is coming very close and in order to overcome such tremendous and frightening events, one has to have absolute Bitachon in HaKodosh Boruch Hu more than anything, Bitachon. People hate others who are trying to be truly close to Hashem because they don’t want to let go of their Gashmius. Therefore anyone who shows too much true fervor for Hashem’s Mitzvos and love for HaKodosh Boruch Hu, is branded a Meshugena and that makes it “Kosher” for the so called more enlightened and “Holy” Jews to continue partying and worshipping the Egel Hazahav.

    Again I want to reiterate. I’m not talking nonsense. It’s coming very close. I think that you can see that most of what I said is going to happen has happened. I am a Shaliach that was sent to tell you that it’s coming very close. Every time there is a bad situation in the world it pushes the world downward, and it goes very quickly. It seem like there is going to be a crash and then suddenly it lands softly and disappears from the headlines. But that is only a warning to us. Japan and many other places didn’t land softly. Its just that the world put it out of their minds even though people are being exposed all over the world to tremendous amounts of radiation. That’s the way it’s happening in the world. Every time something happens in the world it’s not only the people involved that suffer, but it has repercussions far and wide.

    Q: Whats with the war?
    A: There will be a war. It’s very soon and the question is how ready are we
    going to be, if we have donetrue Teshuvah.

    Q: What will be with Arba Minim?
    A: The Chashivus of Arba Minim is in the person himself. If the person is really trying very hard to be an Oved Hashem, then his Arba Minim will be on the same level as he is. In Europe when it was so hard to get the Arba Minim, sometimes the whole town made a Brocha on the same Arba Minim. Still the Brochas weren’t any less accepted in Shomayim than the Brochas on our fancy expensive Lulavs and Esrogim etc. We have Shefa but they had quality, the quality of serving Hashem. We only have abundance, usually a lot of beautiful Esrogim and Lulavs etc., but we don’t usually have depth and the beauty that they had. Every little child almost has a Lulav and and Esrog but those Jews in the European Shtetles of yesteryear where fifty, sixty, seventy men Bentched on the same Lulav and Esrog, their Tefillos and Brochos were much stronger then ours, with all our ability to buy the very best of the best.

    I have a very difficult Tikun.

    Q: In what way?
    A: First of all I feel bad about all the inconvenience I make for you and Mommy. Second of all, it’s not easy to be a little boy who has, at least on the outside, limited intellectual capacity, but inside I feel like I was before, a giant Talmid Chacham. It conflicts in a very strange way. Another thing I want to say that it is very difficult to be the herald of warnings and predictions in such a frightening world.

    I want to remind those Jews in Chutz Laaretz that read my last message and inform those Jews who did not read my last message that it is really time for all those who can leave the Diaspora, to leave asquickly as possible. We all see clearly that those countries of the world who once professed democracyand equality for all men have all turned into sinister frightening dangerous places to live. Eretz Yisroel, not the state of Israel is the land that Hashem gave us. I think we all agree that Moshiach will be here very soon. According to the Nevuahs two thirds of the world will be destroyed but not Eretz Yisrael .All Jews that can come please make your arrangements and do come. However if you think its enough just to come to Eretz Yisroel without doing Teshuva then you better stay where you are.