Voltaire once said: "The secret to being dull and tedious consists in our saying everything."
Amy Hempel could have said the same thing, but she would have used less words in doing so.
I do believe Amy Hempel has to pay for every word she types. I also believe because of this, she chooses her words wisely.
Regardless, Amy Hempel had to have made a deal with the Devil to become the greatest English language writer ever to have walked the earth. What she bargained for to gain such a title I don't care, so long as she keeps writing.
Having read every one of Ms. Hempel's books, it's nearly impossible to compare one with another, because every book gives me at least 1,000 quips and ideas that I pawn off as my own in order to make myself look wittier and deeper than I actually am. So I won't do that.
Nor will I review "Marriage of the Dog" story by story. For two reasons: 1) I don't want to and 2) see the opening quote.
Amy Hempel's writing compels you to read her stories over and over and over again. The stories are so chock full of tiny little details that I sometimes forget if i read about driving on the New Jersey Turnpike ("Jesus is Waiting") or if I did it myself; I forget if I received a parking citation from while living in New York City ("REFERENCE #388475848-5") or if I read about it. It's that consuming.
And she's that good.
Hempel writes in big airy strokes but is so very precise at the same time. Confused? Just read her work. She shows rather than tells. She gives you such intimate, precise details about these characters that you swear you've met them. Yet she lets you fill in the gaps of her stories, again causing that blend of fiction and reality.
The book isn't perfekt, though. The last story, "Olfactory," is often too serious for its own good. Reading it, I couldn't help but think of an SNL sketch with Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch sitting in a hot tub and talking about their respective "luvvas." Too bad it's the longest story in the book.
But otherwise...the language...the imagery...the emotions. "Marriage of the Dog" is Amy Hempel's first book in seven years; it's refreshing to know she hasn't lost any of her tart wit or insight into the human condition. This book gets five stars just for the shear brilliance of it--it's unlike any other book and is amazing almost by default.
"Marriage of the Dog," like most of Hempel's work, is an optical illusion: how could so few words pack such a wallop? If Honda could squeeze the same kind of power out of gasoline, the energy crisis would be solved.
My favorite quote: "...the way people flatter you by wanting to know every last thing about you, only it's not a compliment, it's just efficient, a person getting more quickly to the end of you."
I'll leave you with another quote that best describes Hempel's writing:
"What I like in a good writer is not what [s]he says, but what [s]he whispers."
--Logan Pearsall Smith