Winter Break Homework by Tess Horton

Although our sixteen-day break to split the year in two comes as a relief, we are always assigned some sort of writing practice for Creative Writing. This year, the junior class was to read ten short stories by differing authors, followed by writing a seven-page short story in the style of one of said authors. This is both to encourage reading a variety of work and to encourage us to actively think about an author’s writing style as we read. Practicing imitation also helps us develop our own voice and style; the goal is to stray from what has already been written.

Out of the ten short stories I read, I chose to respond to “Kneller’s Happy Campers” by Etgar Keret, an author I have frequently looked to for writing inspiration. Keret’s work is a mix of magical realism, humor, and surrealism, focusing more often than not on death, the afterlife, and childhood. “Kneller’s Happy Campers” falls into Keret’s typically morbid subject matter: Mordy, a self-deprecating Jew, finds himself in an afterlife reserved only for those who have committed suicide. I wanted to emulate Keret’s seamless incorporation of impossibility into a world that is entirely believable—a function of magical realism that I find appealing. Another distinguishable aspect of Keret’s work is his structure: stories written entirely within one long paragraph, short, straightforward sentences, and unembellished language (of which I struggled to do the most). Not only does Keret succeed in creating an anxious collection of stories, but in each tale the main cause of action is due to some horrible situation taken lightly and without severity. Here is an excerpt from “Kneller’s Happy Campers” that I thought about specifically while I was responding to it in my own piece of fiction:

“Two days after I killed myself I found a job here at some pizza joint. It’s called Kamikaze, and it’s part of a chain. My shift manager was cool by me, and helped me find a place to live, with this German guy who works at the same store. The job’s no big deal, but it’ll do for a while. And this place—I don’t know—whenever they used to sound off about life after death, and go through the whole is-there-isn’t-there routine, I never thought about it one way or the other.”

-Tess Horton, class of 2021

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