Everybody hates him, except Uzi. I think there’s this thing that after you off yourself, with the way it hurts and everything – and it hurts like hell – the last thing you give a shit about is somebody with nothing on his mind except singing about how unhappy he is. I mean if you gave a flyin’ fuck about stuff like that you’d still be alive, with a depressing poster of Nick Cave over your bed, instead of winding up here.
Etgar Keret’s Kneller’s Happy Campers manages to be funny and depressing at the same time. It’s the story of Mordy’s life-after-death, the events that follow him through the time after he killed himself after a break up with his girlfriend. Yes, the entire book takes place in an actual afterlife, one that’s reserved for those who’ve committed suicide.
Mordy’s from Tel Aviv and his best (dead) friend is Uzi, an East German whose entire family lives together in this dark landscape. You read that right. His ENTIRE FAMILY has “offed,” but they’re happy they get to spend their afterlives together.
It’s dark. Everyone bears the scars of the manner in which they killed themselves. The “hottest” girls are those that ODed because they look just like girls did back in Life – no slashes on their wrists, no sagging skin from drowning, no bullet holes (or exit wounds) in their heads.
It’s not possible to ever forget that this is a land entirely populated by the dead, even if they go about their day-to-day business just like they did when they were alive. Everyone has jobs (Mordy works at Pizzeria Kamikaze [heh]), there’s car trouble and drunken nights on the town.
But it’s not just the story of Mordy’s everyday afterlife, it’s the story of a quest he sets out on with Uzi once he learns that the girl he killed himself over has ALSO killed herself. He believes it means they’re obviously MFEO and has decided not to stop until he finds her.
I want to talk and talk and talk about this book – but it’s difficult, because it’s really only a novella. To say any more would give the entire thing away and I don’t want to do that to you. It’s possible that my attempts not to spoil things are futile, because there’s a movie (Wristcutters: A Love Story from 2006) which has a kickass soundtrack (Gogol Bordello!) and a fantastic cast, but there were a lot of changes made to try to translate the narrative for the screen.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to go on a rant about how the BOOK IS SO MUCH BETTER THAN THE MOVIE, ZOMG! but it kind of is. The ending of the book, while not as give-up-candy-for-life-cos-it’s-so-sweet as the movie, is (in my mind, anyway) superior and rather hopeful.
I am doing a terrible job of talking about this book. Just go read it because it’s short and it’s worth your time.
Stop arguing with me.