A well-received short story collection from one of America's most liked contemporary writers. It's only his third book, after one other book of stories and one novel; shows he takes his time. I also (purposefully) took my time reading these stories after buying it quickly enough. I'd gone with R. to see him 'live' in Amsterdam, organized by his Dutch publisher, and liked him quite a lot. Basically, he's just read about half of the title story and answered some questions by the interviewer and the audience. Enough for me to want to read it straight away. I took it one story at a time. And enjoyed the book like that. The stories were well-written, in the sense that they were entertaining and insightful, mixing humor with depth. A good combination that worked for me, even though I don't usually read 'funny' books. Of course it didn't work in every story. The first and the last story might be the best, together with the second one, "Sister hills", about a harsh Israeli woman laying claim to her neighbour's daughter, following some long-forgotten deal. In hindsight (I didn't realize this when reading), this story mirrors Israel's claim to Palestinia based on an age-old text. Some of the middle stories were a bit more forgetful, but it was a strong and - albeit 100% jewish - quite varied collection of stories. Englander certainly is good.
14 September 2012