Thursday, April 19, 2012

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

Last night I finished Nathan Englander's What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank and I loved, loved, loved it. I'm a huge fan of stories anyway (not that I don't love the novel as well) and these beautifully crafted, deeply moving and somewhat (sometimes more than somewhat) disturbing stories are right up my alley. This would be a great book club selection (if you have an open-minded book club) because there is SO MUCH to talk about. Each story is so perfectly done, so completely of itself, so full of memorable characters and scenes...My favorite, or, the story that will stay with me the longest, is Camp Sundown. The mild setting, the guilelessness of the young main character, the dead-on hysterical way the old folks talk...and, then, we know it's coming, we fear it's coming, we're told it's coming, but still the end is a surprise. Still I'm turning this story over in my head, both for the content (how can Englander get away with writing such a thing?) and for its form.

I loved the collection although I have a feeling there will be people who feel strongly the opposite, and I'd love to hear any and all thoughts!


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  2. MY favorite part: When Mark is at the gym with his father and notices that a man changing nearby has a concentration camp tattoo with a number that's just three ahead of his dad's. When he points this out to them, amazed they both survived the unthinkable and made it to America to retire on a golf course, his father replies: "All that means is, he cut ahead of me in line. There, same as here. This guy's a cutter." And then they go back to putting on their socks.
    This opened up my eyes to the fact that as horrific and amazing as some historic events may seem to us today, to those who actually LIVED them it took a sense of humor and a huge amount of mental displacement to survive them. It made me wonder how MY children will view the atrocities and horrors of war that I have experienced when they are old enough to ask me about them. Will I be nonchalant and hide behind humor as Mark's father did? Will I be able to do something as mundane as putting on my socks while we discuss it? Or will I want to sit them down in a coffee shop and cry with them as I try to convey the true horrors of my past? I'm not so sure, but it made me think. It also made me think about things I have tried not to for a quite a while. Sometimes we take comfort in the mundane. And sometimes its the thought of the mundane things that can bring us comfort in our most trying, horrific times. That can be the light at the end of our nightmarish tunnel. I think Mark's father knew this. And I for one, can appreciate that.
    Thanks for your insights on this.

    --Donkey Ote

    1. I love that scene, too. It just illistrates the whole subtle intensity of this book--it's like having a fight while whispering. The collection is entirely understated in a way that just stays with you.

  3. I couldn't have said it better myself. Great analogy...having a fight while whispering. I like that.