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What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank: Stories [Kindle Edition]

Nathan Englander
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $5.01 (33%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

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.


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The sense comes easily that Englander, author of the celebrated short story collection For the Relief of Unbearable Urges (1999) and the absorbing novel The Ministry of Special Cases (2007), will always favor the short story form. In his new collection, the reader feels the musculature beneath the skin of his short fiction and keenly appreciates that this is where his supreme power lies. Englander is his own writer. One may think of, say, Bernard Malamud as a possible influence, but which masters, if any, guided him in the early stages of his career have been bid adieu, as Englander sails his own personally mapped seas. His plots are richly developed, and traditional short story techniques are used only when suitable. A case in point is the complex “Sister Hills,” which, fablelike in its deep resonance and applicability to human behavior beyond its particular circumstances, sees the growth of a Jewish settlement at various points in time, from 1973 to 2011. But in the drama unfolding in the foreground, one woman gives her child to another woman to protect the youngster from unidentified evil. The stresses between Jewish orthodoxy and a more secular practice of religious life are apparent in the title story, in which two school friends, grown now and with husbands and children, visit together 20 years after one couple moved to Israel and turned Hasidic. Their discussion of lifestyle choices, specifically within the context of a hypothetical second Holocaust, leads to uncomfortable realizations about one woman’s spouse. --Brad Hooper

Review

Praise for Nathan Englander's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank"
" "
"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."
--Tea 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 Mun

Product Details

  • File Size: 1224 KB
  • Print Length: 225 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B00BXU4KUW
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (February 7, 2012)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005KB0U4K
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,615 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To Extremes January 2, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The allusion to Raymond Carver's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" in the title piece is a little stretched, but it is a terrific story just the same. The similarity is mainly the situation of a alcohol-fueled conversation between two married couples that reveal some uncomfortable truths. Englander does not go for Carver's compact elegance, but his truths would strike home under any title. The story explores the position of Jews in the modern world. Debbie and Lauren were best friends in yeshiva school, but have taken different directions. Debbie has married a secular Jew, relaxed her observance, and now keeps touch with her heritage mainly through an obsessive interest in the Holocaust. Lauren has become ultra-orthodox, changed her name to Shoshana, and moved with her husband Yerucham (formerly Mark) to Israel, where she has borne ten children, all girls. For Yerucham, the real Holocaust is not what happened in the past, but the dilution occurring now as Jew marries Gentile.

The extremes possible in Jewish belief are shown even more strongly in the second story, "Sister Hills," my favorite of the collection. Set in a pioneering settlement in Samaria over the course of four decades (1973, 1987, 2000, and 2011), it represents both the heroism of the settler movement and the stubbornness that, rather than give up on a principle, would persist with a situation in which nobody wins. Similar issues are raised by the next story, "How We Avenged the Blums," about a group of suburban boys getting their own back on an anti-Semitic bully, only to have to confront the violence they have unleashed in themselves.
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37 of 47 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Praise Inflation March 15, 2012
Format:Hardcover
Nathan Englander is reckoned a great writer now, and it shows in the constellation of literary stars who have endorsed this book of short stories with a blurb. Jonathan Franzen calls this work a "fine-grained comedy and large scale-tragedy." Jonathan Safran Foer, Englander's friend, says the work "overflows with revelations and gems." Michael Cabon sums it all up when he calls this collection "Certifiable masterpieces of contemporary short art." Other no less brazen blurbs are provided by Jonathan Letham and Gary Shetyngart, completing the Ponzi pyramid of admiration.

Unfortunately, this collection does not nearly meet up to his hyperbole of acclaim. These stories as a whole are weak. It would be hoped, in a of collection eight stories, there would one or two which could redeem the collection, but in this case it is not so. Englander misses the mark again and again, producing a collection that can be called embarrassing on the one end and a failure on the other.

What goes wrong? First, there is language. Englander's previous work had daring sentences, interesting syntax, and bold juxtapositions of words. These stories are flat and dry on the level of language. Englander is not doing anything real or new with his words. He is just producing them with no sense of the poetry of language. Second is character development. Almost to a story, Englander fails to provide a living, breathing portrait of a person. His characters dance around the fringes of believability, making bad jokes and common observations about life that do nothing to enliven the reader. By and large they are stereotypes, not characters. Finally, the structure of the stories fall well short of being masterpieces of short art.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking Stories January 14, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This collection of 8 short stories by acclaimed Jewish-American author Nathan Englander is sure to make you think. They revolve around Jewish or Israeli themes, but what unites these stories is always an O'Henry-like twist at the end coming from where least you expect. The first, eponymous story involves a religious American couple from Israel visiting their secularized friends in Florida. At first, what seems to be a clash of cultures evolves into the definition of love. One of the most amusing stories in the book is Camp Sundown. The head of a camp that has a youth section and an elder hostel is going slowly insane because a group of seniors suspect one of their bridge-playing members of being a former concentration camp guard. Okay, writing that description does not sound like a good basis for humor, but then that is why Englander is the author, and I, a reader. In another story, Peep Show, another secularized Jew finds his mind playing tricks on him when he goes to a Times Square, of course, peep show, and the women start morphing into rabbis and then worse.
Englander has his characters struggle with identity, morals, and sometimes just making it through the day intact. His stories do not come to a conclusion as much as just end, leaving the reader to contemplate what does it all mean, and what does this say about my life. Englander continues to be a master story teller, who leads us down roads we didn't know existed and weren't sure we wanted to follow.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Pulitzer-prize-winning author Edward P. Jones has said that in a good short story that "the world, for even one character, has shifted, whether to a large or tiny degree." All the eight stories included in Nathan Englander's fine collection WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT ANNE FRANK-- are we to think about Raymond Carver from this title?-- indeed live up to that standard. Several of the endings of the stories also take the reader by surprise as well. The characters are Jewish; the stories are mostly set in the U. S. and Israel and may go back several decades up to the present. Mr. Englander writes about anti-Semitism, the conflict between generations, the letter of the law versus natural law, the conflicts between secular Jews and observant Jews, revenge, justice, the importance of writing. Moral ambiquities abound. And like all good writers, the author asks many more questions than he answers.

While all eight stories are superb, four of them stand out. In the title story Mark and Lauren who have "turned Hasidic" and are now called Yerucham and Shoshana and living in Israel visit old friends Mike and Debbie in South Florida. After an evening of conversation that goes in several directions and with the help of some industrial strength pot they play a serious game. The ending is worthy of James Joyce's brilliant short story "The Dead" and just as surprising. In the very moving "Everything I Know About My Family on My Mother's Side" the narrator, whose name is Nathan, delves into his family's history and discovers long kept family secrets. Surely this story will resonate with practically every reader. Almost every friend of mine and I as well have uncovered-- often by accident-- family skeletons years after the occurrence.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Contemporary stories that illuminate strugles of Jews and non-Jews,...
Enrching persecives of many difficult choices Jews and some of their neighbors face, directly and indirectly releavant to Anne Frank's life, times, and family.
Published 16 days ago by Brian Zakem
5.0 out of 5 stars Englander making progress
Despite the praise heaped on it, I found Englander's first collection, "For the Relief of Unbearable Urges" failed to live up to the hype. Read more
Published 27 days ago by Larry Benjamin
3.0 out of 5 stars Well Worth Reading
Well crafted collection of short stories written from an interesting perspective. I recommend it to those who enjoy unusual short stories.
Published 1 month ago by Judith Damron
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous short stories!
These are totally absorbing stories from a unique point of view. Mr. Englander has a very distinctive "voice. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Arlene
5.0 out of 5 stars a perfect collection of Jewish short stories.
This is a collection I have meant to read - for two years now - since the book was published.
Just from reading the title story I was immediately taken aback. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Nate Kowal
1.0 out of 5 stars One of 2 books I have ever read and returned
I hated this book. The witty, clever story in the sample ended in the first chapter and the book descended into completely unorganized stories that jumped around. Read more
Published 4 months ago by B. Stanley
5.0 out of 5 stars abc
A very good and appropriate product that fits my expectations and put into a good use. Keep the good service
Published 4 months ago by Shmuel Einav
3.0 out of 5 stars review
Some of the stories were fantastic; others were dull and dissatisfying ... A mix bag,
Yet when she's good, such as the title story, she's great....
Published 5 months ago by rrosenyc
3.0 out of 5 stars Some sad, some funny, almost always interesting
The first story was AMAZING. The others varied between okay and good. Not all the characters really grab you or feel believable
Published 6 months ago by CNS
5.0 out of 5 stars Ranges from the funny to the serious to the melancholy. A great...
This collection of short stories from Nathan Englander was one of my favorite reads this year. The stories have a broad range from the comedic to the serious, the melancholy to... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mike Williams
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More About the Author

Nathan Englander is the author of the story collections What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank and the internationally bestselling story collection For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, as well as the novel The Ministry of Special Cases (all published by Knopf/Vintage).

His short fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Washington Post, as well as The O. Henry Prize Stories and numerous editions of The Best American Short Stories.

Translated into more than a dozen languages, Englander was selected as one of "20 Writers for the 21st Century" by The New Yorker, received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a PEN/Malamud Award, the Bard Fiction Prize, and the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts & Letters. He's been a fellow at the Dorothy & Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, and at The American Academy of Berlin. He teaches in the Graduate Writing Program at Hunter College along with Peter Carey and Colum McCann, and, in the summer, he teaches a course for NYU's Writers in Paris program.

This year, along with the publication of his new collection, Englander's play The Twenty-Seventh Man will premiere at The Public Theater, and his translation New American Haggadah (edited by Jonathan Safran Foer) will be published by Little Brown. He also co-translated Etgar Keret's Suddenly A Knock at the Door forthcoming in March from FSG. He lives in Brooklyn, New York and Madison, Wisconsin.

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