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

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  7,522 ratings  ·  1,021 reviews
A New York Times Notable Book
An NPR Best Book of 2012

These eight powerful stories, dazzling in their display of language and imagination, show a celebrated short-story writer and novelist grappling with the great questions of modern life.

From the title story, a provocative portrait of two marriages inspired by Raymond Carver’s masterpiece, to “Peep Show” and “How We Aveng
Paperback, 240 pages
Published March 5th 2013 by Vintage (first published February 7th 2012)
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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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 'outsider' they
Glenn Sumi
Mar 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I’d read the occasional Nathan Englander story before in magazines and anthologies, but nothing prepared me for the enormous range, depth and maturity of the eight stories in this superb collection.

Englander takes on big issues – anti-Semitism, the Israeli settlements, avenging the Holocaust – but always from an unexpected angle and with a fresh, authentic voice. These tales offer up urgent, morally complex questions about how to live in the world and the ways stories affect us.

There’s a Kafkae
Feb 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Jan 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
Sorry , I posted my review of The Paris wife for this will rewrite soon.
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.
Jan Rice
What stops Nathan Englander from being a Philip Roth?

A marriage falls under an uncomfortable spotlight during a parlor game....
A dystopian fairy tale in which an intolerable requirement of heroism and loss leads to a cruel entitlement;
How might the perennially weak-kneed among us -- the ninety-pound weaklings, as they used to be called -- man up?
A sexy tale reminiscent of Michel Houellebecq....
A family that can't handle the truth, so they disallow feelings and rewrite history: not an unfamiliar
Jul 30, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Will Ansbacher
It’s an intriguing title – it’s what made me pick up the book - but these are rather constrained short stories. The blurbs mention biting wit and humour but it’s quite understated when present at all.
There is something about the moral dilemmas that Englander’s characters find themselves in, and the title story was about the best of the lot – two couples play a game of whether they would have done what Anne Frank’s protectors did.

However, most of the stories have that stilted quality of parable
Dec 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
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
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
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shortfiction
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
Mar 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  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
John Luiz
May 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jonathan Englander's “For the Relief of Unbearable Urges” was the sort of lovely irreverent debut that makes one take note of an author and eagerly await his next work. His first novel, “Ministry of Special Cases,” smart and emotionally sharp, pointed to a writer well on the way to finding his own unique voice. With “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank” Englander has more than come into his own, he has firmly established himself as Bernard Malamud's worthy heir.

From the the beginnin
Elyse  Walters
I'd really give this book about a 3.5 to a 3.7 rating. (but rated UP).

Its a small book --(8 short stories)--Jewish or Israeli themes.

A couple of the stories are Holocaust themes -- (such as "Camp Sundown") ---yet, its a very funny short story. (hilarious).

"Sister Hills" -- drove me 'crazy' --like 'nails-on-a-chalk-board-crazy'. (maybe---it was because I was in Israel myself during the Yom Kippur War?)
Or....maybe it was the story itself.
Two woman founded a small Jewish settlement near the Pa
Lauren Howells
Sep 08, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
It took me a long time to finish this book. The first few stories did not entice me, and for the last couple of days I’ve had to force myself to read in order to get it finished. However, the last three stories were wonderful, which is where my three stars come from.
Genia Lukin
Aug 03, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other
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
Jan 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
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
Sharon Burgin
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
Moshe Mikanovsky
Interesting collection of short stories, all with the Jewish theme, which in some cases are dealing with cliches. It is easier to talk about the stories which I didn't like:
- The Reader - an overall boring story, read on the audio book by the author himself, a big mistake!
- Sister Hills - such a pretentious story, where the building of a settlement in the territories and Halachic arguments are its core.

The more intriguing stories in this collection, in my opinion, are:
- Peep Show - a wonderful p
NE is a writer I admire for his intelligence and insight.
However I didnt particularly care for this collection of short stories, mostly because I found it difficult to relate to the humour. I didnt get the in jokes and it wasnt much of a pleasure.
Nick Schroeder
Jun 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
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
Barry Levy
Feb 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Last year when I was in Brattle Books in Boston I heard a patrician lady say to her granddaughter, I think you'd love Nathan Englander, he's funny and his stories are deep but quick. Such was my experience today. I think part of the reason was the title -- Jesus, I love it -- but I had looked forward to reading this in public. Alas, I went for bicycle ride and returned home beat. I picked this collection up and read straight through.

The Shoah features in at least half of the stories. Some made
Dec 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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,
Gary  the Bookworm
Feb 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Hannah Garden
Mar 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Thing Two
Feb 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Thing Two by: Fresh Air review 2/15/2012
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. ...more
Jan 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So beautifully written and some stories were really powerful (for me the most impactful was the one about two families starting a village on the twin hills in Israel). Other reviewers have done a way better and more thorough job reviewing each story - all I will say is this collection was really great and taught me a lot about Judaism.
Jul 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really excellent collection. WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT ANNE FRANK reads a lot like Roth, but with more cultural savvy and awareness. These stories are a post-modern (or post-post-modern, if you insist) mediation on Jewish identity in the modern era--an identity, to be sure that has become somewhat amorphous and unclear, and yet something that so many have died for and continue to die for (the problematic of Zionism lurks everywhere in this book, but I'm not going to touch it here). ...more
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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

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Why not focus on some serious family drama? Not yours, of course, but a fictional family whose story you can follow through the generations of...
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