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What We Talk About When We Talk about Anne Frank: Storiesby Nathan Englander
Synopses & Reviews
These eight new stories from the celebrated novelist and short-story writer Nathan Englander display a gifted young author grappling with the great questions of modern life, with a command of language and the imagination that place Englander at the very forefront of contemporary American fiction.
The title story, inspired by Raymond Carver's masterpiece, is a provocative portrait of two marriages in which the Holocaust is played out as a devastating parlor game. In the outlandishly dark "Camp Sundown" vigilante justice is undertaken by a group of geriatric campers in a bucolic summer enclave. "Free Fruit for Young Widows" is a small, sharp study in evil, lovingly told by a father to a son. "Sister Hills" chronicles the history of Israel's settlements from the eve of the Yom Kippur War through the present, a political fable constructed around the tale of two mothers who strike a terrible bargain to save a child. Marking a return to two of Englander's classic themes, "Peep Show" and "How We Avenged the Blums" wrestle with sexual longing and ingenuity in the face of adversity and peril. And "Everything I Know About My Family on My Mother's Side" is suffused with an intimacy and tenderness that break new ground for a writer who seems constantly to be expanding the parameters of what he can achieve in the short form.
Beautiful and courageous, funny and achingly sad, Englander's work is a revelation.
"It's a tribute to Englander's verve and scope that the eight stories in his new collection, although clearly the product of one mind with a particular set of interests (Israel; American Jewry and suburbia; writing and reading; sex, survival, and the long shadow of the Shoah) never cover the same territory. Each is particular, deeply felt, and capable of pressing any number of buttons. The title story, which features a reunion of old friends, a lot of marijuana, and a series of collisions between Israel and America and Orthodoxy and laxity, starts out funny and gets funnier, until suddenly it's not a bit funny. 'Sister Hills' traces an Israeli settlement from its violent founding to its bedroom community transformation and reads like a myth, simple, stark, and, like many a myth, ultimately horrifying. And as you spend a few days with the beleaguered director of 'Camp Sundown,' a vacation camp for elderly Jews, you'll find, as he does, that things you think you're sure about — guilt, justice, silence, and the morality of revenge — start to get fuzzy. What we talk about when we talk about Englander's collection turns out to be survival and the difficult — sometimes awful, sometimes touching — choices people make, and Englander (For the Relief of Unbearable Urges), brings a tremendous range and capacity to surprise to his chosen topic. Agent: Nicole Aragi, Aragi Agency." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Englander's new collection of stories tells the tangled truth of life in prose that, as ever, surprises the reader with its gnarled beauty....Certifiable masterpieces of contemporary short-story art."Michael Chabon
"A resounding testament to the power of the short story from a master of the form. Englander's latest hooks you with the same irresistible intimacy, immediacy and deliciousness of stumbling in on a heated altercation that is absolutely none of your business; it's what great fiction is all about."Téa Obreht
"It takes an exceptional combination of moral humility and moral assurance to integrate fine-grained comedy and large-scale tragedy as daringly as Nathan Englander does."Jonathan Franzen
"Courageous and provocative. Edgy and timeless. In Englander's hands, storytelling is a transformative act. Put him alongside Singer, Carver, and Munro. Englander is, quite simply, one of the very best we have." Colum McCann
"Nathan Englander writes the stories I am always hoping for, searching for. These are stories that transport you into other lives, other dreams. This is deft, engrossing, deeply satisfying work. Englander is, to me, the modern master of the form. And this collection is the very best of the best." Geraldine Brooks
"What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank vividly displays the humor, complexity, and edge that we've come to expect from Nathan Englander's fiction — always animated by a deep, vibrant core of historical resonance." Jennifer Egan
"Englander's wisest, funniest, bravest, and most beautiful book. It overflows with revelations and gems." Jonathan Safran Foer
"Nathan Englander's elegant, inquisitive, and hilarious fictions are a working definition of what the modern short story can do." Jonathan Lethem
"The depth of Englander's feeling is the thing that separates him from just about everyone. You can hear his heart thumping feverishly on every page." Dave Eggers
"Nathan Englander is one of those rare writers who, like Faulkner, manages to make his seemingly obsessive, insular concerns all the more universal for their specificity. It's this neat trick, I think, that makes the stories in his new collection so utterly haunting." Richard Russo
About the Author
Nathan Englander’s short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and numerous anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories and The O. Henry Prize Stories. Englander is the author of the novel The Ministry of Special Cases and the story collection For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, which earned him a PEN/Malamud Award and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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