The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel
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The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel

4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  3,993 ratings  ·  467 reviews
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 expe...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published September 18th 2007 by Scribner (first published May 9th 2006)
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The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey EugenidesHoroscopes for the Dead by Billy CollinsThe Collected Stories of Amy Hempel by Amy HempelThe Collected Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia DavisGranta 114 by Granta: The Magazine of New...
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3rd out of 23 books — 6 voters
Tenth of December by George SaundersInterpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa LahiriThis Is How You Lose Her by Junot DíazA Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer EganNine Stories by J.D. Salinger
Badass Short Story Collections (Or So I Hear)
42nd out of 156 books — 48 voters


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Adrianne Mathiowetz
Apr 04, 2008 Adrianne Mathiowetz rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Hemingway fans, people who hate Hemingway
Recommended to Adrianne by: Rick Moody, who for the record writes an annoying introduction.
This is one of those books that has you rereading sentences over and over again, not because you couldn't parse their basic meaning, but because you suspect that a second reading will glean another, more subtle bit of information. It will also make you want to own a dog. It will also have you falling in love with Amy Hempel and wanting to make her your bride, in a house on the countryside with a weedy garden and a swamp nearby.

I started reading God of Small Things within five minutes of finishin...more
Matt
Sep 20, 2008 Matt rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: aspiring writers
The reason for reading this book was because I could not otherwise get away from this lady until doing so. One such instance involved an innocent perusal of Raymond Carver's wikipedia entry, and there was Hempel and Gordon Lish sitting one booth over and trying to look conspicuously casual. Another time I was cruising Palahniuk.com (feeling all manly and disenfranchised, of course), and there she was again, rocking back and forth on her heels expectantly after blurting out an awkward "Hi!". This...more
Ian Mullet
i kind of just want to copy one of her stories and so that's what i'm going to do. her stories are pretty short and this may be the shortest of them all. it's called:

"The Man in Bogata"

The police and emergency service people fail to make a dent. The voice of the pleading spouse does not have the hoped-for effect. The woman remains on the ledge -- though not, she threatens, for long.

I imagine that I am the one who must talk the woman down. I see it, and it happens like this.

I tell the woman about...more
Núria
Debo ser desconfiada por naturaleza, porque cuando veo que un libro tiene críticas muy dispares (unas muy buenas y otras malísimas) sospecho, pero lo cierto es que también desconfío cuando un libro sólo tiene críticas excelentes. Para mí es más fácil creer que un libro está sobrevalorado que no que es tan bueno que consigue que todos los críticos se pongan de acuerdo. Por supuesto, me pasó esto mismo con los cuentos de Amy Hempel. Os desafío a que encontréis una crítica mala de Amy Hempel; busca...more
Charlotte
Am I the only reader who doesn't take pleasure in reading Amy Hempel? She is always praised for writing "the perfect sentence," for the way she distills a story to its poetic essence, for writing precise little gems. (Some stories are less than two pages long.) How can I describe my aversion? Is it that I feel like I'm being toyed with? That Hempel's spareness is a literary exercise? There's a chill in her writing that comes from that spareness, I think. There was one story that was superb, "In...more
David
I know it's a cliche, but some of these stories just took my breath away. "In the Cemetery where Al Jolson is buried" is just extraordinary, but there are at least a half a dozen other stories which are just as good.

This book contains all four collections of short stories written by Hempel over the last 20 years and has been praised to the skies. Deservedly so, IMO. Some of the stories are less than a page long, but they all pack a punch.

A couple of months later, and I'm downgrading this review...more
Will
It was hard for me to read this book without constantly thinking about the agonizing amount of work that had to go into every single sentence. I kept picturing this frowny-faced, chain-smoking woman slumped over a typewriter desperately trying to warp every word to express exactly what she wanted. The end result was appropriately rewarding.
Jeanette (Most of My Favorite Authors Are Dead)
This has all four of Amy Hempel's short story collections in one volume. I am assigning it four stars mostly on the strength of her first collection, Reasons to Live published way back in the 1980s.

I kept thinking "a female Richard Brautigan" while reading her early stories. Quirky subjects and bizarre dialogue. You just never know where she's going to go next. Three of my four favorite stories in the whole book are from this first collection. The other three collections just don't have that ed...more
Francisco
Annie Dillard writes in one of her books about a young student approaching his famous writer/professor. "So you think I can be a great writer?" asks the student. "I don't know. Do you like sentences?"" answers his teacher. I thought about this as I read Amy Hempel's book because I paused after so many sentences while reading. Paused not only for "wow" but paused also for "mmm" and paused also for "ouch", like when the sentence evoked the memory of hurt (to you or by you). If you like to write, t...more
Ann Douglas
The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel is actually four books in one. The book pulls together the short stories published in Hempel's collections Reasons to Live (1985), At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom (1990), Tumble Home (1997), and The Dog of the Marriage (2005). Hempel's writing is dark and often funny. Her imagery is always memorable ("her voice has lost weight"). And her observations (via her narrators) about her characters are always telling ("He could not wait to get rid of them so he cou...more
Jenna
Hempel has a way of making you aware of the mundane and fractured events of your life, taking stock in what normally wouldn't make the final edit of your "This Is Your Life" reel. I both get her and don't, connect with her narrators ( I use the plural, but they all seem to be fundamentally the same) and loathe them at the same time. I was amazed to read this collection, which includes stories from previous books spanning many years, and near the end feel like these stories were meant to be read...more
Andrej
Her sentences are clear and hard and sometimes heavy, like glass I-beams. That's a bad metaphor, because they aren't transparent; the sentences are the things you notice the most.

I first read Amy Hempel's story, "The Harvest," a while ago. I don't remember who told me about it. Someone in a writing group somewhere. I found it online and thought it was the most compressed, sharp blade of a story I'd ever read. I saved it somewhere on a now-defunct laptop. But now I've got the collection.

Most of...more
Kirby
Amy Hempel is a pretty pretty cool lady. She writes kind of like Joan Didion, except a little funnier and with more stories about dogs. I really enjoyed this compilation of her four short story books, which is full of simple yet touching musings on California, animals, painters, infidelity, loss -- and starting anew after loss. Many stories touch on dark issues but I would say that overall, her work is quite uplifting. And "The Dog of the Marriage," a story about a woman who trains cute pups to...more
Brian
I have a friend who once wanted to learn to play guitar. But, when he heard Jimi Hendrix play, he decided to give up the instrument because he couldn't imagine himself ever being able to play like that. Amy Hempel makes me feel the same way about writing--my fledgling attempts at writing fiction look clumsy and silly next to Ms. Hempel's elegant and delicate prose.

Ms. Hempel has a reputation for being a minimalist writer. Not being a literature major, I'm unsure of the exact definition of that t...more
Eileen
This is a book that many fiction writers have been waiting for for a long time, especially since Hempel's "Reasons to Live" has been out of print for a while. Essentially, this omnibus collection gathers together Hempel's four books of short fiction, including her most recent "The Dog of the Marriage." The book has been widely lauded in the press, but I will just say here that if you are looking to read some short stories by a master of minimalist fiction whose work is wryly funny and sad at the...more
Julie
Jun 25, 2011 Julie rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: people who love short stories, writers
Hempel is amazing. Her prose is as crisp and sharp as you'll find and yet, enviably, appears effortless. Her style reminds me of a writing instructor of mine, who would always ask us: "Is every word in that sentence necessary? How much would you pay for that one there?" The lesson being, if you wouldn't lay your money on the line for any extraneous words, why include them? If Hempel took my instructor's class, she would be the teacher's pet. Every word in Hempel's stories has a purpose and every...more
carolyn
Contained within these pages are short stories that can make you stop breathing, sentences that I will remember forever and ever, that burned themselves into my brain the second I read them. I was AMAZED to learn that "In the Cemetary where Al Jolson is Buried" was the first piece of fiction she'd EVER written. It's beautiful and real, more real than this keyboard I'm typing on or the trees out my window. I will buy my own copy of this book and re-read these stories for the rest of my life. Each...more
Art
this collection of stories is really powerful. a lot of stories about how we deal with grief, love, loss, and how we balance out the affections of the world with our own weights we carry around. i say "we" when i mean "the characters", but you get the point. its amazing. The story "in the cemetary where al jolson is buried" about dealing with a friend's death is really beautiful, and "the harvest" was particularly good. i also highly suggest, "and lead us not into penn station". i mean, it's thr...more
Michelle
Pre-review:
I think I'm in love.

Review:
Fans of the short story will love Amy Hempel. Fans of good writing will love Amy Hempel.

She says so much, yet her language is completely uncluttered. These stories need to be read slowly so that they may be savored. I almost want to reread the whole collection so that I can pick up anything I may have missed the first time around.
Katie
Sep 11, 2007 Katie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: every little guy and gal in the continental u.s.
Shelves: short-stories
Amy Hempel is a master of humor and heartbreak. Read this from cover to cover. Do not eat, do not sleep. Do not waste time with other things.
michael reid  rubenstein
good read, very entertaining, multiple levels, but last 100 pages are killers, love, trust, dogs. hats off to Amy
Colin McKay Miller
Amy Hempel’s Collected Stories starts with my favorite short story collection ever, Reasons to Live, and then proceeds to highlight the author’s decline to mediocrity.

Don’t get me wrong; ask me who the best short story writer is and I’ll still say Amy Hempel, but sometimes you have to be honest, even about the people you admire most. Like many who got into Hempel prior to the rabid Chuck Palahniuk endorsement, I was hooked by the widely anthologized “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried,” a...more
Jean
Her style is stronger than her plot line. I'll add more later.

Later... I just finished the section entitled "Reasons to Live." I thought it was time to read the Introduction by Rick Moody. Now I realize I finished her first book of short stories, and in this collection are four books. He starts by saying , "It's all about the sentences." Some of my Book Club friends would love that / her. After I read his line, I realized that at least two sentences are quite stuck in my mind:

"An omen that big c...more
Chris McCracken
Maybe 4.888882 stars. Maybe you just shouldn't read too many of one person's stories in one sitting. You (I) can get burnt out. I admire her talent for distillation. I love DFW and his "maximalism", and I love the traditional stuff (the classics) like O'Connor and Hemingway and Kipling and De Maupassant. And I love Hempel and Carver and July and their minimal styles. I'm not sure I could put together any kind of critical theory about which succeeds more than the other, and which is a more approp...more
Joan
Feb 18, 2009 Joan rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: those looking for some suicide assistance
Recommended to Joan by: good friend
A very good friend gave me this for my birthday and declared, "If you don't like this, I don't think we can be friends anymore."

So as not to give up on this friendship of mine (ha!), I read through the book Tumble Home (all books except for The Dog of The Marriage), and the only stories that I liked were "The Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried," and "Today Will be a Quiet Day."

The two stories I enjoyed were the two that had meaning, that had life and love in them. In "The Cemetery," the protagon...more
Andrew
Amy Hempel is a beautifully spare writer. This seems to be the consensus, and I agree with it. Her sentences are clipped and imagistic, and it's hard not to make Raymond Carver comparisons. But there was a great wake of Carver clones in the '80s, and Ms. Hempel is, unfortunately, not nearly as talented. Carver was able to make his empty descriptions pulse with life and truth, whereas Hempel's leave me wanting something more.

I can't argue with her stylistic skill, but her narrative needs work. I'...more
Jolie
Apr 19, 2012 Jolie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
I'm not really sure what to rate this. On the one hand, there are some real gems in this collection ("In the Cemetery where Al Jolson is Buried" is one of those career-defining stories along the lines of "The Lottery" and "In the Gloaming"); on the other hand, I found many of the stories to be unexceptional. That's not to say they were poorly written; on the contrary, I am in awe of her ability to mix humor with adversity in such a graceful way. Another reviewer made the comment that many of her...more
Karen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Valerie Baber
Because I typically fall asleep or become distracted after a few pages of reading, short stories are ideal for me. In addition to that, a well-read friend of mine recommended this book to me, so I was really looking forward to exploring it. My excitement did not last long, however. I've read about four of her stories now, and I'm still wondering when things are supposed to become interesting. The book has been given plenty of awards and good reviews, but I can't quite seem to figure out why. Not...more
Karl W.
Oct 19, 2009 Karl W. rated it 1 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Nobody
I tried to like her stories, but after making it about a third of the way through this book, I gave up -- something I rarely do. The writing just seemed too affected, too deliberately offhand. Try as I might, I simply could not connect with her characters, and I simply could not relate to the universe they inhabited. A quick example: In one story, a character is said to hurl his wife's false teeth "like a discus." Sorry, that is simply not believable, and seems to have been written by someone wh...more
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Amy Hempel is an American short story writer, journalist, and university professor at Brooklyn College. Hempel was a former student of Gordon Lish, who eventually helped her publish her first collection of short stories. Hempel has been published in Harper's, Vanity Fair, GQ, and Bomb. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as the Ambassador Book Award in 2007, the Rea Award for...more
More about Amy Hempel...
Reasons to Live Tumble Home: A Novella and Short Stories The Dog of the Marriage: Stories At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom: Stories Unleashed: Poems by Writers' Dogs

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“I meet a person, and in my mind I'm saying three minutes; I give you three minutes to show me the spark.” 108 likes
“ I think of the chimp, the one with the talking hands.
In the course of the experiment, that chimp had a baby. Imagine how her trainers must have thrilled when the mother, without prompting, began to sign her newborn.
Baby, drink milk.
Baby, play ball.
And when the baby died, the mother stood over the body, her wrinkled hands moving with animal grace, forming again and again the words: Baby, come hug, Baby come hug, fluent now in the language of grief.”
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