Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Memorable Lines from Nathan Englander's What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank — stories

“And tell me this,” Rena said. “When a little bar mitzvah boy says to a pretty girl as a joke, ‘You are my wife,’ and he gives her a bracelet as a token—”
“A divorce is arranged,” the young rabbi said. “We have done it before. Yes, if it is uttered and the gift is received, they are married, the same and any two people in the world.”
“Even if neither really meant it?” Rena said. “Even if an innocent joke between two young adults at play?”
“Even then,” said Rabbi Kiggel.
—“Sister Hills,” p. 65

“It’s a delicate thing being Jewish,” Ace said. “It’s a condition that aggravates the more mind you pay it.”
—“How We Avenged the Blums,” p. 81

44. She is gone. She is gone, and she will be surprised that I am alive to write this—because she, and everyone who knows me, didn’t think I’d survive it. That I can’t be alone for a minute. That I can’t manage a second of silence. A second of peace. That to breathe, I need a second set of lungs by my side. And to have a feeling? An emotion? No one in my family will show one. Love, yes. Oh, we’re Jews, after all. There’s tons of loving and complimenting, tons of kissing and hugging. But I mean any of us, any of my blood, to sit and face reality, to sit alone on a couch without a partner and to think the truth and feel the ruth, it cannot be done. I sure can’t do it. And she knew I couldn’t do it. And that’s why it ended.

—“Everything I Know About My Family on My Mother’s Side,” p. 133

53. And I still love her. I love you, Bean. (And even now, I don’t say it straight. Let me try one more time: I love you, Bean. I say it.) And I place this in the middle of a short story in the midst of our modern YouTube, iTunes, plugged-in lives. I might as well tell her right here. No one’s looking; no one’s listening. There can’t be any place better to hide in plain sight.

—“Everything I Know About My Family on My Mother’s Side,” p. 135

62. Here is me, fictionalized, sitting on the couch with a letter, written in my grandfather’s hand. I am weeping. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen his handwriting before. I think to call my mother, to tell her what I’m holding. I think to call my brother or maybe Cousin Jack. But really, more than anyone, I think to call that missing love—that missing lover. Because it’s her I wish were with me; it is her I want to share it with right now. And more so, to find myself weeping from a real sadness—not anxious, not disappointed, not frustrated or confused—just weeping from the truth of it, and the heartbreak of it, and recognizing it as the purest emotion I’ve ever had. It’s this I want to tell her, that I’m feeling a pure feeling, maybe my first true feeling, and for this—I admit it—I am proud.

—“Everything I Know About My Family on My Mother’s Side,” p. 138-9

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