Nathan Englander isn’t looking for quiet. The graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop wrote a good portion of his first book, the short story collection For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, at the Java House in downtown Iowa City. It was the first of many coffee shops where he has practiced his art.
“I have a coffee shop in every city…I really can utterly lose myself in a really, really busy coffee shop. That’s my ideal place,” he explains in this On the Fly interview recorded in November 2010.
In this wide-ranging interview, Englander discusses the need to find his writing “ticks,” the questions he gets about Judaism and literature, the journey from “craft to art,” his “obligations…to the text,” and more. He reminds us that writing is “an action verb…It’s just as simple as declaring and doing.”
In addition to For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, Englander is the author of the novel The Ministry of Special Cases and the short story collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank. He is also the translator of the New American Haggadah.
Englander was named one of “20 Writers for the 21st Century” by The New Yorker. He was awarded the Bard Fiction Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the PEN/Malamud Award, and the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2013.