I don’t want to reduce this to niche fiction, but this should be required reading if you are Jewish. I’ve never felt so, well, understood. There are two stories that are absolute masterpieces. The first is the title story which leads off the collection. It now ranks up there with “Sonny’s Blues,” (Baldwin), “The Second Bakery Attack” (Murakami) and “Four Blue Chairs” (Kureishi) as one of my favorite short stories of all time. I was surprised that it was first. I was sure that there was no way that the other seven could stand up. Yet, they did. “The Reader” features a writer who has emerged after ten years with a new book and has only one reader (the same reader) at every stop on his book tour. “Camp Sundown” has a remarkably brutal ending, but it’s just right. “Sister Hills” matches the personal and political in stunning fashion. “Peep Show” is just astonishing – both funny and absolutely true.
Englander has the Jewish dialect down pat. Does he get away with it because I happen to know he’s Jewish? Would it seem stereotypical in another person’s hands? I don’t think so. Englander negotiates the balance quite well.