Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Englander. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Englander. Show all posts

26 January, 2013

Nathan Englander, "What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank"

I avoided this story for quite some time because that's my personal tendency when many people make a big deal out of a movie or a book. However, now that it is in the Best American Short Stories, 2012 and a short story discussion group is reading BASS, I acquiesced. Well, I really liked it. The set up is realistic with enough tension to maintain suspense releasing insight about the characters at a nice pace.  When the two couples play the game and the visiting wife, Shoshana, née Lauren, makes a realization about her husband, I was heart broken, not for myself but for her. Her life will never be the same nor will her marriage.

The story is a psychological study into the man who is a Hasidic Jew and when it comes  right down to it, a coward, and now his wife has realized it. Naturally, people of all religions may be brave or not. Maybe he is trying to gain strength through his religion or maybe he has been hiding from himself. Either way, his character is in the open now.

The story also touches on political events of the day as well, for example, the Israeli occupation, the Mormon's baptizing of Jews. Evidently sometimes Mormons perform a proxy baptism which I have read is against church policy unless it is a relative.

The story was first published in the New Yorker in 2011. It is told in first person POV and present tense. The narrator is the husband of the host wife, Deb.


Nathan Englander's web page

19 August, 2012

Nathan Englander, "Free Fruit for Young Widows"

I didn't blog about this story the first time I read it because it had annoyed me. I felt like it was too much  telling and too much trying to beat the reader over the head about philosophical issues of murder and when and how context changes the examination of an issue.

But I listened to it on Selected Shorts last night and I've almost changed my mind. The story does try too hard to make its point, "Because to a story there is context." But it is a touching story and well told. And, the story is also about telling stories so I suppose telling is fitting with the theme.

I wish I would have felt that I knew Etgar as his own person more. He only feels, to me, as a vehicle to ask questions. I never got the sense of him as a young boy.

"Free Fruit for Young Widows" was first published in The New Yorker and subsequently selected for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories, 2011.

Nathan Englander's web site
Guardian book page discussing Frank O'Connor Award