Nathan Englander

englander.jpgI am reading Nathan Englander’s new novel, The Ministry of Special Cases.

It is a good book, I think. It seems to have a great deal of humanity and energy — and a sort of dark humor that I find very appealing. It took him many, many years to write this book. I’m sure that it was a process — as my agent said today — “full of false starts.”

The book is set in Buenos Aires, in the mid-70s. It opens in a graveyard, which is a particularly interesting place to open a novel, and the story takes a while to get moving.

Englander — like Junot Diaz — struggled to write a novel following a phenomenally successful short fiction debut. This is heartening. I wonder what the relationship is between speed of writing and quality of writing. Do writers do their best work slowly?

And what is the relationship between reading and writing? Do writers do their best work when they are also reading extensively?

3 thoughts on “Nathan Englander

  1. I think that whenever I’m reading it gives me a lot of mental energy — and I feel stronger when I sit down to write.

  2. one should always remember that it took melville a very short time to write MOBY DICK. less than a year if i remember correctly. on the other hand ellison toiled a life time on his second novel and it never really came together. i’m not sure there’s any connection between how long it takes to write a book and its import or value. philip k dick wrote books in a matter of weeks and they’re still with us today. what matters most in these long-time-writing narratives is that writers face crazy obstacles that they eventually overcome, and that in itself is inspiring. whether the product of their struggle is worth a shit is another question altogether and, im thinking, pretty unrelated to the first.

  3. I think that the Englander book is a great book and I’m sure that the Diaz will be too. If a writer’s got it, he’s got it, you know? I could feel the Argentinian landscape as soon as I opened the Englander. That was great.

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