April 7, 2012

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

by Nathan Englander

A nifty collection of stories about a nifty assortment of Jews. The title story is a wonderful postmodern reprise on Raymond Carver, but the gem is “Sister Hills,” a long tale with great ambitions. First, it’s a sympathetic portrait of West Bank settlers, which is a very difficult thing to pull off without cheating and Englander is too good to cheat. That would be more than enough, but to this Englander adds a wonderful twist: we’re recapitulating the problem of The Merchant of Venice but this time it’s entirely among Jews and is to be settled under the big old olive tree in the defendant’s back yard by a court of three hastily assembled rabbis who sit on lawn furniture they brought tied to the roof of their car. They already know what they will decide, and why, and perhaps they are not wrong, but there was one thing they had forgotten.