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Etgar Keret

Tel Aviv, A Short Story

Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv is seen from a beach on the outskirts of the city. (Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert)

What makes Etgar Keret think of his home of Tel Aviv as a short story? He talks about his childhood, why he’s Jewish rather than Israeli, and his love of the beach with Henry Krempels in this edition of “Literary City.”

If, at random, you picked an Etgar Keret short story to read, you would likely come across one of a few things: humor, sex, and, or an urban Israeli setting.

The 46-year-old Keret’s work remains a guiding force for contemporary Israeli literature, and his more recent success in film has since introduced him to a whole new generation of admirers. He is also currently a part of Miranda July’s We Think Alone, a project that has allowed us to be privy to his, and others, personal correspondence. It’s a selection of emails ranging from advice on writing to an amusing recollection of a dream, and Keret’s are, perhaps predictably, both touching and hilarious.

Here, the Tel Avivian native talks about what it means to live in the city known to outsiders as “the Bubble.”

Where are you now?

Caribbean Time

The Blissfully Quirky Grenadines

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With roosters for alarm clocks, oddball characters, and rum punch so potent the ice won't float, the Grenadines are blessedly untouched by time. Gully Wells revels in these tiny specks in a sea of blue.

by Gully Wells

The very first time I went to the West Indies, which must have been more than forty years ago, I flew in a small private plane that shook, rattled, and rolled its leisurely way on the seventy-five miles between Grenada and St. Vincent. Perhaps to amuse himself or to terrify me or quite possibly both, the pilot swooped down low—so low that people waved cheerily up at us from the decks of their yachts, giving me a closer view than I might have wished for of the tiny islands that lay carelessly scattered across the ocean below. "What," I shouted above the roar of the engine, "are they called?" "The Grenadines," he shouted back. Which was the entire extent of our conversation.

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There's not a 3,000-passenger ship in sight as the New Moon, the 32-foot sloop chartered by the author, sails by one of over 600 islands that make up the Grenadines.

Some of the smaller uninhabited islands resembled oddly misshapen loaves of bread, others protruded from the sea like a giant's rotting molars; some reminded me of the elegant spires of submerged cathedrals, while others lay low like lurking crocodiles. Dotted about were sandy crescents covered in palm trees—cliché cartoon desert islands surrounded by reefs and limpid aquamarine water. Even the larger islands, most of which were no more than a couple of miles across—volcanic cones draped in dark-green velvet cloaks—looked scarcely big enough to be inhabited, but I could clearly see toy villages set high in the hills and toy boats bobbing in the harbors. I remember wondering what it could possibly be like to live your life on an isolated dot of land not much bigger than New York City's Central Park.

G20 Summit

Playing Hooky in St. Petersburg

World leaders are heading to Russia’s second-largest city for two days of photo-ops and meetings. Fun, right? Instead, may we suggest pulling a Ferris Bueller and sneaking out for a day on the town?

On September 5, leaders from the world’s top nations will arrive in St. Petersburg and begin shuttling between very important plenary sessions and photos ops with their fellow rulers—and sometime rivals—during the annual two-day G20 summit. But let’s face it, these international confabs can get a little dull. Rather than resorting to a covert game of online poker to get through the monotony, political and business leaders should slip out to see a little of what St. Petersburg has to offer outside of the conference-room walls.

Russia G20 Summit

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The good news is G20 participants will be holed up at the Constantine Palace, which is a historic landmark in its own right; the bad news is they’re a semi-isolated, 30-minute jaunt from the city center. But don’t worry, no one will notice a prime minister slipping out—they’ll be too distracted by President Obama’s plans to ruffle the Kremlin’s feathers by meeting with human rights activists on the first day of the summit. While he’s busy getting under Putin’s skin, here’s a guide for what other, more rebellious, leaders should do around St. Petersburg.

GAWK at the unparalleled treasures of the State Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace. You could spend a whole day wandering through this complex comprising the former royal residence, hermitages, a theater, auxiliary showroom, and more. Since time is of the essence, check out the current “Europe Without Borders” installation on the Bronze Age before rushing back for a G20-style lesson on European borders.

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Nine Perfect Picnic Spots

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All Dogs Aboard!

Pet owners had high hopes for the Pets On Trains bill currently before Congress. Miranda Green explains why even that non-controversial legislation can’t gain passage

It may be a long wait at the station for animal lovers hoping to hop a train with their favorite pet.

Amtrak won’t permit pets to board the way commercial airlines do. Congress wanted to change that with the Pets on Trains Act, introduced in May. The bill, which would require Amtrak to allow domesticated cats and dogs aboard trains for a fee, has few critics and the support of pet owners everywhere, as well as significant pet lobbies, including the Humane Society.

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Still, the legislation has little chance of passage within the next year. “In a normal setting, something like this that doesn’t have a strong variant opposition, you could just put in [the transportation reauthorization bill], and it’s going to pass because it’s a reauthorization and it just sails through and everything is fine,” says California Republican Rep. John Campbell, the bill’s co-sponsor.

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Of Tails and Tales

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Visit North Korea!

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