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The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel by Amy…
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The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel (2006)

by Amy Hempel

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34. The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel
Forward Rick Moody
published: 2006
format: 412 page ARC Paperback
acquired: 2007 from a library book sale
read: May 29-Jun 14
rating: 4½

This is a collection of four books of stories:
- Reasons to Live (1985)
- At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom (1990)
- Tumble Home (1997)
- The Dog of Marriage (2005)

"My heart—I thought it stopped. So I got in my car and headed for God." So entered Amy Hempel into the book world, a master of the line to the point of hyper-intense concision. Hempel was one of the great short story writers of the 1980's whose career went beyond the popularity of form. When short stories weren't selling so well the in the 1990's, she tried to transform into a longer form writer, coming out with only the 80-page story Tumble Home, a good illustration of why that's not her strength. It's a good story in the end, but the getting their requires the reader to move through numerous hyper-intense short outbursts all going different directions.

But in the short form she is a special voice, clever, fun, passive in complex and fascinating ways, and full of memorable lines, including wonderful opening lines (all hinted at in some of her titles). She can be sensual, but mostly she is scoffing and blessing at the same time all life's normal difficulties. Another gem that was languishing on the shelf way too long.

Mrs. Deane scans the written portion of my test. She says I skipped a question, the one that says, "Would you prefer to: (a) Think about your plans for tomorrow, (b) Think about what you would do if you had a million dollars, (c) Think about how it would feel to be held up at gunpoint?"

I say, "I want the job for the person who picks (b)."
( )
  dchaikin | Jun 23, 2018 |
An incredible stylist, Hempel knows just how to craft that all-important first line* to draw you in, following it up with an equally powerful second and third and fourth... the lean sentences each so full of an untold story, but still so comfortably inhabiting the story they are telling.

Nowhere else is her trademark economy - those clipped, calculatedly idiosyncratic phrases - more controlled nor more impactful than in her first collection Reasons to Live** (which kept reminding me of Grace Paley). The remaining three collections eventually got looser, with some intriguing repetitions (which made me wonder about Hempel's life, what's her experience of living across a cemetery and male painters), but still had underline-worthy sentences and ideas.

*The story of how Marilynne Robinson wrote Housekeeping - writing down metaphors on pieces of paper and putting them in a drawer and somehow they cohered into a story - always makes me wonder the order in which authors start a story. What came first, a concept, a scene, a theme, a sentence? For Hempel, I feel the sentences definitely came first and the story - if there is one - unfurled from there.

**Favourites from this collection: In a Tub, In the Cemetery Where All Johnson is Buried, Pool Night, The Man in Bogota. ( )
  kitzyl | Mar 30, 2018 |
I've given this book away several times, each of them following a discussion on writers who craft sentences so delicious you can't help but go back and read them again, sometimes even mid-story. Hempel is a true wordsmith, and regardless of subject matter, her craft is incredible and an utter joy to take in. ( )
1 vote Scott_Baron | Jun 13, 2017 |
I was lead to this by a reference to one short story ("The Dog of the Marriage") and enjoyed is so much that I read the entire collection. On the whole they are powerful stories, pulling you into a well-established world in a few paragraphs, allowing you to observe for a few pages, and dropping you off again at an unexpected point; back where you started but no longer the same. ( )
  bensdad00 | Jan 10, 2017 |
Terrific. One of the best short story collections around. Short stories of the human condition, frequently lit up by flashes of wry humour, and always crafted in just-right sentences and rhythms. ( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Amy Hempelprimary authorall editionscalculated
Moody, RickIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743291638, Paperback)

Amy Hempel is a master of the short story. This celebrated volume gathers together her complete work -- four short collections of stunning stories about marriages, minor disasters, and moments of revelation.

With her inimitable compassion and wit, Hempel introduces characters who make choices that seem inevitable, and whose longings and misgivings evoke eternal human experience.

For readers who have known Hempel's work for decades and for those who are just discovering her, this indispensable volume contains all the stories in Reasons to Live, At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom, Tumble Home, and The Dog of the Marriage. No reader of great writing should be without it.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:59 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel gathers together the complete work of a writer whose voice is as singular and astonishing as any in American fiction. Hempel, fiercely admired by writers and reviewers, has a sterling reputation that is based on four very short collections of stories, roughly fifteen thousand stunning sentences, written over a period of nearly three decades. These are stories about people who make choices that seem inevitable, whose longings and misgivings evoke eternal human experience. With compassion, wit, and the acutest eye, Hempel observes the marriages, minor disasters, and moments of revelation in an uneasy America.WhenReasons to Live,Hempel's first collection, was published in 1985, readers encountered a pitch-perfect voice in fiction and an unsettling assessment of the culture. That collection includes "San Francisco," which Alan Cheuse inThe Chicago Tribunecalled "arguably the finest short story composed by any living writer." InAt the Gates of the Animal Kingdom,her second collection, frequently compared to the work of Raymond Carver, Hempel refined and developed her unique grace and style and her unerring instinct for the moment that defines a character. Also included here, in their entirety, are the collectionsTumble HomeandThe Dog of the Marriage.As Rick Moody says of the title novella in Tumble Home, "the leap in mastery, in seriousness, and sheer literary purpose was inspiring to behold.... And yet," he continues,"The Dog of the Marriage,the fourth collection, is even better than the other three...a triumph, in fact."The Collected Stories of Amy Hempelis the perfect opportunity for readers of contemporary American fiction to catch up to one of its masters. Moody's passionate and illuminating introduction celebrates both the appeal and the importance of Hempel's work.… (more)

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