Welcome to Clementine’s Weekly Reading Series, where Clementine the Hedgehog discusses whatever she’s currently reading. This week: What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander.
I admit, I rolled my eyes when I first saw this book. Look, we all went to fancy writing workshops, unironically used words like “milquetoast” and “aioli,” and, of course, read our fair share of Carver. Hell, I have an MFA from Iowa (this was before the bastards outlawed hedgehogs due to our “uncontrollable” bowels), but you don’t see me flaunting it every fucking chance I get. So when you name your book after a Carver story — something Murakami already beat you to — the reader is allowed at least one eye-roll.
But, honestly, once I got past that, I immediately regretted that eye roll — and let me tell you, I am not a hedgehog who takes back eye rolls. Hell, the official hedgehog motto is “No Regrets” (that and “Live Free or Hibernate”), so the book had to have been pretty damn good to make me do such a thing.
The first story is centered around two married couples getting high, shooting the shit and working out the logistics of the next hypothetical Holocaust — you know, normal stuff. But during these run-of-the-mill events, they have deeply disturbing, “Who the fuck did I marry?” revelations about each other. As the reader, you come away feeling like you just watched an incredibly literary, Jewish-centric episode of Maury. Englander keeps that strangeness up throughout the whole book. One story is about a woman who literally buys another woman’s daughter!
This is the kind of shit I’m looking for in a short story collection: surprising, hilarious and fucked up. So I guess you earn that literary title, Englander, but if your next book’s title contains a reference to “The Waste Land,” prepare for a quill to the groin.
Clementine was born on July 2011 to an unknown breeder in New Jersey. She made her Internet debut on September 2012, and since then, her Tumblr book review series has gained acclaim from authors like Emma Straub, Ned Vizzini and Jami Attenberg. In her spare time, Clementine sleeps, eats and exercises on her scurry wheel. She also has a new book that’s out now from Black Balloon Publishing: Clementine Classics: Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser.