Feed on

I read “Fatso” last spring semester, and what I often did not enjoy were the terse and direct lines. The protagonist is somewhat detached from his love interest and is aloof. He regards the intimate human interactions with his girlfriend and relationships in general in a formulaic manner. He says, “she’s just trying to test you, to see whether you love her unconditionally.” I’ve also considered if this is a device to create an immediate rapport with the reader. Before readers can really chew over his words, they might begin to passively agree or at least follow along with his line of thought. It is almost like a reader trap.

What I appreciate about the piece is, despite the distaste I have with how he speaks about his relationship, I cannot help but appreciate the honesty of his character. I do not doubt this is how he thinks. Developing authentic characters in a short story can be difficult, and Keret does this in a few sentences. He also makes the likelihood of sentimentally rather slim. The protagonist’s emotional reactions are not over the top. When his girlfriend transforms into the “…short fat guy,” there is a change in the relationship. They simply enjoy each other’s company and also notices little things about his/her personality — such as how he “laughs likes a baby” and is “a little crass, especially with the women.” They also begin to enjoy soccer together even though the protagonist had no previous interest in it.

In “Beatrice” the relationship Anna Goldberg has with the steam engine Koenig & Bauer, which she named Hercules, is similar. She knew little to nothing about this machine whom she loved, but she filled a bookcase with manuals and disrupted her sleep to feed him fuel. It was much in the same way that the male protagonist forced himself to stay awake in order to watch Argentina in the soccer final. While the fate of Goldberg is much more tragic and her sacrifice of her life to birth her daughter is a much larger sacrifice, both relationships have similar aspects, including the theme of accepting their partners as they are. Their relationships require a certain recalibration to both parties involved because neither of the pairings are ordinary. Despite the fantastic nature of both short stories, the themes are applicable to reality.

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