Jonathan Safran Foer
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank By Nathan Englander (Alfred A. Knopf, 207 pp., $24.95) The great mystery about the fiction of Nathan Englander is the rapturous response that it has elicited. The enigma deepens with the accolades for this new volume of stories, which, for reasons I will try to explain, is a great falling-off from For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, his debut collection, which appeared in 1999.
Every critic, I’d venture, has written something that he or she would like to take back. For me, it’s my expression of astonishment, in a column written on the third anniversary of September 11, that no important fiction dealing with that day had yet appeared. Blame it on the fever for documentation that arose in the wake of the attacks, perhaps, or on my naïveté about the amount of time required to write a book—not to mention to sell and publish it.
Perhaps it’s just a sign of encroaching curmudgeonliness, but I find that as my own age climbs inexorably through the thirties, the less interested I am in the work of writers who are younger than I am. Looking over the much-ballyhooed New Yorker list of “20 under 40,” which came out last week, I felt mostly impatience.
At the risk of seeming like I’m kissing up to the boss’s family, I have to flag this great essay by Jonathan Safran Foer in The Wall Street Journal making the Swiftian case for eating dog. After all, pigs are just as smart, but there’s nothing keeping most of us from firing up the spit-roaster. And of course, throughout history many people have taken to canine cuisine. It’s worth pointing out a few highlights from his essay. Here’s the best plank of his argument, the environmental reason for putting Fido on the dinner menu: Three to four million dogs and cats are euthanized annually.
Proof (Miramax) Everything Is Illuminated (Warner Independent) John Madden, the English director of theater and film, is best known in this country for Shakespeare in Love, though Ethan Frome and Mrs. Brown were also exceptional. Gwyneth Paltrow is a gifted actress who needs a good director. Other directors have helped her, but her performance in the Shakespeare picture under Madden’s hand took her into new reaches.