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The Dog of the Marriage: Stories

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,105 Ratings  ·  100 Reviews
Amy Hempel's compassion, intensity, and illuminating observations have made her one of the most distinctive and admired modern writers. In three stunning books of stories, she has established a voice as unique and recognizable as the photographs of Cindy Sherman or the brushstrokes of Robert Motherwell. The Dog of the Marriage, Hempel's fourth collection, is about sexual o ...more
Hardcover, 139 pages
Published February 22nd 2005 by Scribner Book Company (first published 2005)
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Paquita Maria Sanchez
Nov 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
Some people can't really get down with the short story format. I can appreciate the sentiment, since they can sort of feel like casual acquaintances when compared to the lifelong loves to be found in certain novels. Short stories generally poke rather than punch, which is just an inevitable downside of being under-endowed. I could probably list on my hands the number of short stories that have really, really stuck with me over the years for whatever reason. The Masque of the Red Death, a few of ...more
Feb 26, 2012 rated it liked it
I checked this out from the library because I was thinking of taking a master class with Hempel next month. Her focus will be on language and what she calls the "acoustics of a sentence," and I am very interested in that.

As usual, I continue to struggle with and sometimes be frustrated by some aspects of spare short-short fiction, though there's been some I've absolutely loved, e.g. Black Tickets by Jayne Anne Phillips, the ones included in Where the Dog Star Never Glows by Tara L. Masih and ju
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
By a truly colossal margin the single greatest short story collection I've ever read.
Aug 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
I guess if I had to use one word to describe Amy Hempel's stories, it would be spare. She does not over-describe emotions, setting, or characters. It is all laid out cleanly and precisely. She uses the bare minimum of words to get her story across; probably less.

The story that spoke to me the most was "The Uninvited." A woman who volunteers at a rape-crisis hotline is attacked and worries that she might be pregnant. She is better at dealing with crisis in other victims than she is at dealing wit
Jul 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
2006 notebook: really like the cryptic, short, packed stories. Sometimes I think they should be more cryptic, compact and less wiseguy-ey. But excellent, all, nonetheless. 'Beach Town', the opening story, about an eavesdropper, a woman viewing her licentious neighbour's behaviour, is very well put together.
Jul 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
The Dog of the Marriage, Amy Hempel. New York: Scribner, 2005. Hardcover, $20.00 ISBN 0-7432-6451-7

I finished Amy Hempel’s latest short story collection, “The Dog of the Marriage,” on a visit to the Georgia O’Keefe museum in Santa Fe. During this particular visit the museum hosted an exhibit, “Moments in Modernism: Georgia O’Keefe and Andy Warhol, Flowers of Distinction” and on the wall for this exhibit were quotes by both authors. One by O’Keefe made me think immediately of Hempel’s work and ce
Colin McKay Miller
Two stars. Barely:

Collected Stories review:

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
Nov 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
When Hempel is good, she's really good. The sentences of her stories are laced with humor and meaning and pathos with the minimum of words. Her writing is spare in that way that will be labeled minimalism, but her ideas and situations explode from their bare framework. As with other great minimalists--Carver, Denis Johnson, etc.--what's left off the page is just as important and can be inferred from what is there. I liked this collection a lot. In fact, some of the most poignant stories are the ...more
May 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
Despite the high rating and laudatory blurbs, I really didn't like this collection that much. The writing was okay, but it was like looking at an abstract painting or listening to free verse, both of which I am not too keen on. Yes, occasionally you will get something beautiful anyway, and enjoy it, but overall I want my stories to be more story. I don't want to feel that the writer (or artist) was slumming, conning the readers that they had produced something great. I liked the title story and ...more
Simon Sylvester
Aug 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is an astonishing book - a class apart. The Dog Of The Marriage gathers Amy Hempel's four short story collections into a single volume, and they are consistently superb. There isn't a single wrong note across dozens of stories. Hempel's work is voiced through emotionally damaged or stunted narrators, trapped or somehow left behind in their lives, caught between stasis and decay. The stories are not without hope, though, and Hempel writes with unceasing, unfailing humanity. Her sentences and ...more
Nov 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
This collection of stories was a solid 5 stars before the last story, "Offertory." I just did not feel as if Hempel was the person to write this particular story. Perhaps I am wrong. Regardless, this collection of nine stories epitomizes the power a short story can attain and reflect back upon the reader.

Oct 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
Amy Hempel's stories are extraordinary for what they leave out. Her incredible economy makes me want to reread and reread.
Mostly annoying
one whining voice, walking dogs
I'd divorce them all.
Jan 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
I love Amy Hempel's prose. My favorite story from this book is Jesus is Waiting--there's a video of a reading of it by Julianna Margulies at

Nov 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
"Lesbian fights are the worst, Carolee said - nobody ever walks out and slams the door because they're both women and want to talk about their feelings."
Sep 28, 2017 rated it liked it
I found this collection on Powell's 2014 Short List. I enjoyed "Reference #388475848-5", "The Dog of the Marriage", "The Afterlife" and "The Uninvited." I found several of the remaining stories to be be flat and "Offertory" didn't appeal to me at all.
Özten Paul
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
You want the truth and you want the truth and when you get it you can't take it and have to turn away. So is telling a person the truth a good or malignant act?
Dan Lalande
Oct 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Through stories short and long, Hempel plays little-girl-lost, adrfit in a world of woozy urbanity, where threat (mostly sexual) is processed through arcane, personal observation. This is about the inevitability of being a male plaything, the surreality into which that plunges you, and the smidgeon of salvation you chase like a butterfly. The dream quality of Hempel's obliquely hip feminism functions best in the short pieces; it's tested by the long and fails.
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's always a pleasure to get to read Hempel. I only wish there was more in the collection. Wonderfully chosen stories though, each so strong. Loved reading each.
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I don't even like short stories.
Arnoldo Rosas
Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excelentes relatos íntimos con un tono de profunda tristeza. Nos queda un emocionante regusto de boca.
May 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
After reading Dog of the Marriage by Amy Hempel, you will need to redefine for yourself the meanings of the words: home and family. From the first sentence of the first scene in the first story, Hempel will having you questioning – what is home? You will wonder if having neighbors “swear at missed croquet shots” really counts as being home. By the end of that first page, you won’t be entirely sure what family means either. “Beach Town”, that opening story, will ensure that Hempel’s readers finis ...more
Marie Chow
Mar 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Cut to the Chase:
Hempel is a powerful, emotional, often sparse writer — the stories here, which all seem to deal with love in one way or another, range from two sentences to 27 pages long. The stories are easy to read and will often linger in your memory, but as a true modern artist, she is a master of not writing past the ending, so much so that you will find some of the stories ending (often a bit abruptly) just as they’re getting interesting. Still, these characters are powerful, witty, and i
There's a one-sentence story in this collection called "Memoir"—“Just once in my life—oh, when have I ever wanted anything just once in my life?”—and it is exquisite.

But mostly for me, The Dog of the Marriage was like walking through a crowd of people and thinking you recognize someone, but realizing that you’re mistaken, it's not the person you thought it was. And by that I mean, there were moments when I felt incredibly close to the narrative voices, when I could relate to the emotional condit
Jul 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
There are many people who try to imitate Hempel's style, but in the end no one can touch the true depth of the original. The density of her work, where almost every sentence (nay, maybe even every syllable) contains every level of storytelling thin and superficial readers like "Gracie" obviously missed, is phenomenal. Hempel may not be a quick read, but she is certainly worth the extra effort.

Also impressive about Hempel is how she is able to subtly shift her tones in her stories. There is a co
Apr 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
I picked it up on a recommendation of the clerk at the used book store who saw me with Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk in the growing stack of books I planned to purchase. She added this to my cache, pointing out the blurb on the back:
In airports and on trains, the toughest part of reading The Dog of the Marriage is how much your jaw muscles ache from the effort it takes not to laugh and cry in front of strangers. Amy Hempel is my god among writers.

- Chuck Palahniuk

I think I appreciated A
Ben Thurley
Dec 07, 2013 rated it liked it
I've obviously been on a bit of a short story jag this year, and despite starting this collection with high expectations (based on reviews of her other work) I found it fairly unsatisfying. Hempel's spare, ambiguous prose-style is intriguing and the reader is constantly forced to navigate through her unresolved deixis (unspecified personal pronouns, particularly, abound) and oblique narratives.

However, I was left wondering what I had put in the effort for. "What were the white things" is a forc
Renee Alberts
Jul 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Amy Hempel’s first-person narrators have the tone of a recent acquaintance candidly revealing the details of her tangled personal life: they’re a little startling, but somehow very familiar. Hempel’s prose is poetic and concise. Her sentences expertly shift between wry self-deprecation and poetic observations. “The Uninvited” is the highlight of the collection, expertly weaving several narratives, including the narrator’s work as hotline operator, watching the movie The Uninvited, and seeking pa ...more
B. Mason
Jul 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Once again Amy Hempel complies a collection that is wrenching and provides this tumbling out of action, conflict and emotion. Particularly in the short, confessional "Reference #388475848-5" a letter to the New York parking authority that starts out normal enough for the form of a letter but proceeds to get more and more involved in the narrator's life. By the end you're left stunned and a bit shaky. I've realized one aspect of Hempel's work I truly enjoy is the backward gaze of the narrator in ...more
Mar 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
eroticism as flower arranging ...said with great great respect to flower arranging. or, i guess, metaphorically: flower arrangement as eroticism. some confluence of care and courage and winging-it, bold lechery and a gourmet's rarefied lust. from it: "Renoir told Matisse he would pick flowers in the fields and arrange them in a vase, and then he would paint the side he had not arranged." an awesomely patient artist, waiting for the detail, sifting through life for the sentence. a convincing poet ...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
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“Just once in my life--oh, when have I ever wanted anything just once in my life?” 73 likes
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