What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank: Stories
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What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank: Stories

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  4,403 ratings  ·  721 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...more
Audio, 7 pages
Published February 7th 2012 by Random House Audio (first published January 1st 2012)
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brian
i kinda dug this book. d'jew?
d'jew like it?
it's probably the jewiest book i've ever read.
this is a good thing -- i like jewy books.

i don't wanna generalize b/c there are plenty of jews who are as dumb as gentiles, but jews really kicked some literary ass in the 20th century: you've got the (un)holy trinity (roth, mailer, bellow), then there's salinger, malamud, & potok. the 2 other roths: henry & joseph. kafka. koestler. canetti. the list goes on...

but jews are no longer the 'outside...more
Arnie
Sorry , I posted my review of The Paris wife for this will rewrite soon.
Rewrite:
I thought the first story (the title story) was extremely powerful, but would have been better without the short coda about the current circumstances of two characters). The second story was excellent. Except for the last story (which I didn't find credible) the rest of the stories were good but nothing special. A good review would contain too many spoilers.
Anmiryam
The first and last stories in this collection are brilliant. They are intellectually satisfying, funny, and emotionally wrenching. In them Englander manages to address issues and themes that have run through my life, and I suspect many Jewish and half-Jewish (that would be me) Americans born after WWII and the founding of Israel. What role does Judaism as a religion play in our lives? If we do not practice, are we still Jewish? How do we know what we would have done if caught in the horror that...more
Teresa
After not finishing his novel, The Ministry of Special Cases, I was happy to have my confidence in Englander (and in my own sense of humor) restored after reading the title story. There's an even more hilarious -- and darker -- story later in the collection that reaffirmed this feeling.

The stories range from comic and devastating to devastatingly dark, with different styles, including a parable of sorts and one in the form of creative nonfiction that emphasizes a couple of things are true in bot...more
Rebecca Foster
Witty, iconoclastic, but never trivial, Englander’s short stories form an enduring reflection on Jewish identity in light of history.

The title story sets the tragicomic tone as Englander’s contemporary characters obsess over the Holocaust, speculating about whether Gentile friends would hide them, Anne Frank-like, in an attic if the worst happened again. The recurring Jewish problem of self-definition, Englander insists, is that “you can’t build Judaism only on the foundation of one terrible cri...more
Judy
Mar 07, 2013 Judy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: short story lovers, Anne
What I like about Nathan Englander's writing is that it has the contemporary feel to it but yet is unique. It doesn't have that run-of-the-mill writing school flavor that so many writers pick up. Englander has the ability to put humor in his stories but yet talk about serious topics in a meaningful way all the while loading each story with heaps of Jewish culture. I loved these stories and count myself one of those on the Englander bandwagon. This volume contained the following stories:

*What We...more
Laura Leaney
Englander's talent is undeniable. Every short story in this collection is fraught with conflict, beautifully detailed, and psychologically insightful. Everyone is Jewish - except for the occasional gentile or anti-semite. And Jewishness is held down over the characters' faces like paper bags that keep them from breathing any other air. Who is the most Jewish is the contest of the day. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as it leads to some very funny moments (a little Roth like, to me) and some...more
Jill
So what do Jews talk about when they talk about Anne Frank – or, perhaps more to the point, when they talk about love?

In the eponymous story, inspired by Ray Carver’s masterpiece, speaking about Anne Frank is laced with love, trust and fear. Ray Carver’s characters revealed how what we don’t say is more important than what we do, and in this pitch-perfect take-off, the same dynamics apply. Only this time, two old friends from yeshiva school unite years later and find themselves grappling with th...more
Dave
I really enjoyed this collection of stories. The first story, for which the collection is named, owes more than just the play on the title to Raymond Carver. Like Carver, Englander is able to capture the hints of disappointment or betrayal in a few words between intimates. Also like Carver, so much happens between the commas and periods of a conversation. Don't get me wrong, Englander definitely has his own voice and way of telling a story. Some stories even dip into dreamlike fantasy, like Peep...more
John Luiz
There’s a blurb on the back of this book from the great Richard Russo that really captures what makes this collection so special: “Nathan Englander is one of the rare writers, who like Faulkner, manages to make his seemingly obsessive, insular concerns all the more universal for their specificity.” Englander’s characters are all Jewish, struggling with antisemitism, memories of the Holocaust and the pull between religion and the secular world. As someone raised Catholic, I may not get all the He...more
A.
I loved Nathan Englander's debut collection of short stories For the Relief of Unbearable Urges. There were moments in that book that I felt like Bernard Malamud (a writer I love so outlandishly that tears come to my eyes when I type his name) was walking among us again.

Englander's new collection shook in my hands as I opened it - my excitement was so great, my longing so intense. For the most part, he delivers. Here are the highlights:

Best story: The title story is a hilarious and poignant dep...more
Sharon Thomson
This is a compilation of 8 short stories about Jews. Each is about a different person, experiencing a different way of life and Nathan Englander tries to pose a philosophical conundrum in each one. What would you do in this situation?

It started off very promisingly with a story sharing the same title as the book. Based in Florida it told the story of two couples originally from the same part of the country and way of life, who had then gone totally separate ways, one couple to Florida, the other...more
Stuart
Let's be honest. I'm in the tank for Nathan Englander. If he were to copy the phone book word for word and print it as a novel, I'd probably give it four stars. OK, that's an exaggeration, but you get my drift.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I'll say What We Talk About isn't as good or compelling as Englander's first two books. In comparison, the stories here are a little too breezy for my taste. But there are magic moments. There are times when I sat on a sentence and stopped to adm...more
Nick Schroeder
If you’ve heard about Nathan Englander’s volume of short stories it’s likely that you’ve heard about the title story in which two Jewish couples play the “Anne Frank game.” It’s a game where they decide which of their Gentile friends would hide them when the next Holocaust comes. You hear about that story because, despite its complexity, it’s the easiest to explain. While most of the eight stories in this volume center around Jews, Jewish subject matter and issues, in the end the themes and conc...more
Thing Two
I absolutely loved these stories, reminding me very much of Philip Roth without the heavy misogyny. I heard Englander on Fresh Air and he had me laughing. These stories pulled at my emotions in many ways - from humor to horror. I can't say enough good things about this collection. Definitely looking for more Englander books.
Paul Gleason
This is my first Nathan Englander book and, boy oh boy, let me tell you - he's a knockout of a writer, and What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank is a knockout of a book.

Englander is a chameleon, a stylistic wizard who can bounce from style to style, just like The Beatles on The White Album. He can do straight-up realism, in-the-pocket surrealism, metafiction, and - probably best of all - experimental literature. And the best part of this is that NE includes all these seemingly dispara...more
Carole
I am a huge fan of Nathan Englander and was looking forward to settling in with this new collection. But sadly, I found this work more like a writer's workshop gone awry, albeit with albeit occasional sparks of brilliance, insightful descriptions, and LOL dark humor. The stories seemed to be a weird (beyond quirky) witches brew of Albee, Aesop, and Hitchcock. The title intrigued me because it takes off from from Raymond Carver's amazing What We Talk about When We Talk about Love.

While Englander...more
Barry Levy
One of the most valuable, insightful collections of stories I have ever read. Englander gets into the contemporary Jewish Diaspora psyche on a grand scale. He also well understands the 'new' -- orthodox -- Israeli one. The weave of the social and political relevance of the stories is sheer genius, just as is the incisive humour and epic sense of emotion that gives the book its intellectual drive. Actually, the stories have the feel of mini novels about them (okay, yes, novellas). Whatever, his e...more
John
A Spellbinding Collection of Short Stories from Nathan Englander

Nathan Englander is one of our great young American writers of fiction and his latest short story collection, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank”, is one of the finest I have read lately, replete with ample instances of humor and tragedy. Although Englander’s stories deal with the vicissitudes of fortune experienced by Jews in America and Israel, his stories are quite insightful explorations of human character whose u...more
Kressel Housman
If you're like one of the characters in the title story of this collection and you are drawn to Holocaust stories that show the humanity rising within the inhumanity, you won't find it here. There are no dying men passing on their hidden tefillin to the next Jew in the barracks, no Bais Yaakov graduates, burning with typhoid fever, holding each other up through roll call. For that, I recommend Between My Father and the Old Fool and To Vanquish the Dragon. This book is about much more ordinary, m...more
James
A brilliant read that left me glowing with the happiness that only a good book can provide. The short stories are a series of takes on what is to be Jewish, more informative than most non-fiction. The title story with its echo of Carver in the title is the most immediately gratifying as two secular Jews host an orthodox couple, hilarity and sadness ensues. My favourite however was the short story on the settlements, just when you thought the author would succumb to the hoary, he soars into ambig...more
Rick
I enjoyed reading Nathan Englander's new collection of short stories.The title story is perhaps the best of the bunch combining humor and insight in the way people of all religions interact socially with their spouses and other couples. The darkly humorous tale of seniors at an elder hostel/camp takes a sharp turn to the dark side but I thought the shift was appropriate and handeled masterfully. The Reader spoke directly to anyone who loves books and the way a skilled author can personalize the...more
Goldie
I'd really love to hate this book, because of all the rich white men on the back cover, but Englander knocks the barnacles off again...there's something so transparently innocent about his work, so honest and ashamed and unvarnished that I find myself utterly sucked in and not wanting it to end. Yup. And unlike those other white writerly men on his back cover, all of whom are extremely competent and smart and well-thought -of, I like Englander's work more and more, not less and less.

Big themes,...more
Gary the Bookworm
This is another compelling collection of stories from Englander. He manages to develop interesting characters and all the stories are memorable. I had my favorites but I wasn't bored by any of them. Once again, he has demonstrated his impressive imagination, a keen sense of humor steeped in irony and the ability to balance absurdity and realism. His storytelling equals the best of John Cheever. My only complaint is that he hasn't written more fiction.
Koroviev
Feb 02, 2014 Koroviev rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People I don't want to be friends with anymore
Shelves: m, american

The author is obsessed about Jews and Jewishness and overindulges in interrupting the flow of the narrative with quite random insertions addressing one of Jews/Jewishness/Anti-Semitism. Obsession is okay, if it is paired with a good story. But most of the stories are average or poor. It feels like the author didn't bother with any research and purely wrote from his life experiences.


"What we talk about when we talk about Anne Frank" is average. It had the potential to move, but failed, perhaps b...more
Hannah  Messler
I haven't read Nathan Englander in years, and I loved this just as much as I did his first collection, way back in my twenties. The comparison is probably too on the nose to even bother mentioning what with the title, but he really does manage something very wonderfully similar to Carver's perfect torn evenness, but all on its own specific particular world and keel. Really moving brutal lovely stuff.
Michale
The "game" of his title story made me step back and take a hard look at everyone around me.
Reese
Gary aka Grasshopper recommended that I (a.k.a. Snail) read Nathan Englander's stories. That was ONLY a year ago. Okay, so I'm slow to follow advice. Actually, I'm just slow.

The recommendation came during an exchange of comments prompted by my review of a collection of stories by Shalom Auslander. And perhaps that accounts for my expecting Englander's work to be something other than it is -- or something other than I found it to be. Since the stories vary considerably -- in content and strength...more
Manda
I've had this review open for two days now, lets see if I can make a better fist of it on this attempt. This book contains short stories, in which almost everyone is Jewish, and which have themes about Jewish history or experience, or guilt (for those who don't continue with the faith). I haven't explained that at all well, but there it is.

The stories are all very different, but all very well written: one about children growing up with discrimination; another about people aging with their memor...more
Genia Lukin
Warning: In order to enjoy this book, you have to be Jewish. But not too Jewish. And definitely not an Israeli.

Preferably, you will be a well-educated, liberal, possibly somewhat traditional reader, who is rooted in his knowledge of, if not Judaism, then Jewish culture, so that you can understand all those parallels and parables the author throws at you. But not too rooted, because then you would know just how implausible some of the situations portrayed by Englander and acted out by his charact...more
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16797
Nathan Englander is a Jewish-American author born in Long Island, NY in 1970. He wrote the short story collection, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., in 1999. The volume won widespread critical acclaim, earning Englander the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Malamud Award and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Sue Kauffman Prize, and established him as an important write...more
More about Nathan Englander...
The Ministry of Special Cases For the Relief of Unbearable Urges The Twenty-seventh Man: A Short Story from For the Relief of Unbearable Urges The Tumblers: A Short Story from For the Relief of Unbearable Urges The Gilgul of Park Avenue: A Short Story from For the Relief of Unbearable Urges

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