What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander
Stories

83%

9 Critic Reviews

...Englander has sharpened his focus. His subjects are mercy, vengeance and their moody, intractable stepchild, righteousness.
-NY Times

Synopsis

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.
 

About Nathan Englander

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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. www.nathanenglander.com
 
Published February 7, 2012 by Vintage. 225 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank
All: 9 | Positive: 9 | Negative: 0

NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by STACY SCHIFF on Feb 16 2012

...Englander has sharpened his focus. His subjects are mercy, vengeance and their moody, intractable stepchild, righteousness.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Feb 09 2012

...Mr. Englander manages to delineate such extreme behavior with a combination of psychological insight, allegorical gravity and sometimes uproarious comedy.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by James Lasdun on Feb 01 2012

What is so good about the story – about most of the stories, in fact – is that they orchestrate precisely such moments of discomfort into their own twisting and turning plots, always a step or two ahead of the reader...

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NY Journal of Books

Excellent
Reviewed by Vinton Rafe McCabe on Mar 04 2014

But the question, the one that has to do with the collected stories in questions, is: Is What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank: Stories worthy of the hoopla? The answer, in a word, is Yes. Yes...With each single, slight stroke, Mr. Englander creates characters full blown and sets them loose to play off each other.

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by Parul Sehgal on Feb 13 2012

It's one of the strongest, strangest American stories in years.

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Globe and Mail

Good
Reviewed by JONATHAN PAPERNICK on Feb 17 2012

The past is never dead in these stories. In fact, to borrow a phrase from William Faulkner, the past is not even past.

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AV Club

Good
Reviewed by Todd VanDerWerff on Feb 15 2012

While a little more diversity might be nice, Anne Frank also gives the sense at the end that Englander—in typically witty, thoughtful form—has examined his central thesis so thoroughly and from so many different angles that he’s exhausted all there is to say about it.

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LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by David L. Ulin on Feb 02 2012

There it is, what stories have to offer: a way to shape experience, even when experience is not quite clear.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Philip Marchand on Feb 24 2012

It’s a chilling tale with Biblical overtones of lost birth rights and rash vows and terrible covenants, a tale that mingles the primitive with the utterly contemporary. It’s a story destined for many anthologies.

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70%

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