Reviewing Etgar Keret’s new volume of mini-memoirs poses something of a pleasant conundrum: What can you add to the reading world when you’ve just turned the final page of a book in which a writer has managed to say so much, so movingly, so concisely, and so entertainingly? ... The delightful reality is that Keret brings the same surreal edge and black-as-pitch humor to these nonfictional musings as he does to his short stories. Even their shape — small, perfectly-formed — mirrors the feel of his fiction.
[a] collection of unusual coincidences, and tiny vignettes of a life lived on the constant, bittersweet edge of surrealism. This scattering of laughs. This pack of sighs. This charming and heartbreaking pile of stories that cover the years between the birth of Keret's son, Lev, and the death of his beloved father ... it takes us back through seven years of Keret's history, showing us the world (its beauty, madness, and inescapable strangeness) through his sharp and sympathetic observations. It's not an overtly political book, but one defined by violence, bookended by life and death.
Taken together, these anecdotes paint a picture of combat-zone parenthood that goes beyond politics while reinforcing the imperative need for lasting peace. Fatherhood is not the only subject of interest. We have ruminations on everything from delayed flights to telemarketers. Some of it is profound, much of it less so ... Keret has a tendency toward reductive summation and his explorations often cutely resolve before they have a chance to get going. The nonfictional Keret is gentler than his fictional self; instead of an angry young man we get a defanged father ... at fewer than 200 pages, the book is too slim to comprise so much filler. Keret is best when he sticks to family, and particularly the subject of his father, a Holocaust survivor. Keret risks sentimentality recklessly and often. When it works, the payoff is powerful: a palpable urgency of emotion.
The Seven Good Years is Keret's first book of nonfiction, after five collections of surreal and wonderful short stories. The writing here reveals that some of the strangeness Keret works into his fiction comes from the unique way he sees the real world: a little bent, exasperated, amused and yet also with deep wells of kindness ... This material was originally published in magazines and newspapers and, as columns are asked to do, deal with the issues at hand. These include a new offensive toward Gaza, what his son said in the bath and flight delays while getting to far-flung literary festivals. For this reason, some of the essays that touch on Israel's political situation may feel remote, even dated — yet simultaneously the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has loomed so large for so long that Keret's politics may be important to some readers. He's an Israeli who is often critical of his nation's conservative leaders, someone who wishes there were a way toward peace; he's not writing commentary, but politics simmers in his work.
The book carries the subtitle 'a memoir,' although in actual fact it resembles a colorful assortment of brief episodes, anecdotes, ruminations and opinions ... In these more sober sections Keret remains as candid as ever, to the extent that some of his accounts start to feel like heart-on-sleeve revelations, even confessions. Occasionally what Keret tells us borders on the whimsical — an altercation with a taxi driver, the decision to grow a mustache — especially when it follows something as alarming as an anti-Semitic experience or as absurd as 3-year-old Lev's impending military service. But these are rare lapses on what is otherwise a brilliant and bizarre trip through the years with one of the most original writers at work today.
...every personal essay in The Seven Good Years is very short, very funny, and surprisingly profound. Together, the essays that make up Keret’s memoir tell the story of a family’s history—the arrival of the next generation and the departure of the last—in scenes that pass as quickly as a lifetime’s days ... Almost every story in The Seven Good Years is imbued with absurdity, a dash of sentiment, and a moral point ... Each tale is a small, perfectly formed, storytelling gem.