New York 1, Tel Aviv 0
Bond Street Books
Review by Anjana Balakrishnan New York 1, Tel Aviv 0 is contemporary fiction at its best.Shelly Oria’s debut collection of short stories discusses identity, relationships, stereotypes and constructed (and constricted) reality, and how these concepts play out in the everyday trio of love, loss and life.Oria creates in her stories a potent intimacy that will resonate with even the most detached reader.To create this intimacy, she holds the reader’s hand while lending a peek into her unparalleled imagination.
Most of the 18 short stories in this collection ring true with Oria’s IsraeliAmerican origins.My favourites were “Wait,” a conversation between an eventually divorced couple regarding the husband’s decision to have a baby with his new girlfriend, and “Documentation,” a story about the life of a relationship told through numbered kisses.However, the cheekiest lines are found in “Fully Zipped.” “My name is Andy if you need anything,” one character states.“What is your name if I don’t need anything?” replies the other.
What I found very interesting is how Oria crafts layers of identity: of self, of nationality and of urban alienation.In fact, most of her protagonists struggle with their identities, while those around them seem to have found themselves. Oria handles their relationships with intuition, faith and hope—sans drama. This comes through in passages like, “Predictable questions only lead to predictable answers.Instead, I offered watermelon.”
Oria draws the reader in at moments that pop with sentiment: “The next thing that happened was happiness!” She also prompts the reader to be introspective, a gift that singles her out from the crowd.“The Beginning of a Plan” is a story about a couple who learn to stop time.What happens when time stops? In an effortless paragraph, the author makes the reader realize our reliance on the arbitrary concept that is the measurement of time.
Oria is the kind of author whose work will last for generations.If you would like to understand where fiction writing is at right now, I highly recommend this book.