Tel Aviv Short Stories

Shelly Gold­man and Joan­na Yehiel, ed.
  • Review
By – October 27, 2011

Here’s an unex­pect­ed cen­ten­ni­al salute to the first Hebrew city: 52 new sto­ries writ­ten in Eng­lish. A read­er can’t help won­der who the 38 writ­ers are, and hap­pi­ly, each one (except for the author of a gay-themed sto­ry) is intro­duced through a short biog­ra­phy and a pho­to. They gen­er­al­ly have ori­gins in North Amer­i­ca, the U.K., or South Africa, and most have careers oth­er than writ­ing fiction. 

The par­tic­u­lars of Israeli life are here: the reli­gious and the sec­u­lar, ter­ror bomb­ings, army duty, Fil­ip­ina care­givers to the elder­ly. Some sto­ries deal with uni­ver­sal sit­u­a­tions from an Israeli per­spec­tive, like the dif­fer­ences between an immi­grant gen­er­a­tion and its native-born chil­dren. And still oth­ers have time­less themes that could play out any­where, like dat­ing, infi­deli­ty, jeal­ousy, revenge, and murder. 

The best selec­tions, like Ruth Glick’s med­i­ta­tions on fate and mor­tal­i­ty, con­vey rich detail and pal­pa­ble con­vic­tion. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, too many of the sto­ries ignore the injunc­tion to show, don’t tell.” They devote pages to expo­si­tion, or else they seat two friends in a café to relate nar­ra­tive through dia­logue. And too few of the writ­ers have a reli­able sense of le mot juste. One uses the phrase ani­mal gar­nish” to describe dog drop­pings, and else­where has a char­ac­ter say my ears glazed over.”There are sure­ly bet­ter word choices. 

Nonethe­less, these per­spec­tives of Eng­lish- speak­ing olim offer a kalei­do­scope of cos­mopoli­tan Israeli life to the curi­ous read­er overseas.

Discussion Questions