on 25 May 2013
Hempel's the kind of writer who'll begin a story 'Belle developed a craving *after* her pregnancy'. Belle is a dog. Zany, breathy (one can imagine her composing these down the phone, which I suppose is some kind of compliment), like Lydia Davis Hempel is drawn to the short (or short-short) form, but despite occasional successes (The Center) reading these on the trot is a little like making a meal of popcorn. Put another way, every word written by Davis is worthy of being pondered, at least arguably; the same is not true of Hempel. And does she, do her editors really think 'incant' is a verb? See two-star review. ('It is now, suckers', they replied in chorus.) I'll look out for the odd Hempel story. And await the selected
on 9 June 2006
Like most people, I had never heard of Amy Hempel until Chuck Palahaniuk recommended her in his collection of essays "Non Fiction". Hempel is a very different writer to Chuck and reminds me alot of Sylvia Plath. Most of the stories are short (except the novella "Tumble home") and very satisfying, whetting the appetite for more.
Hempel deals with the quotidien often incorporating her deep affection for animals into her stories.
Hempel is compared, by author Rick Moody in the preface ,to Raymond Carver and Richard Ford.
However I feel Hempel to be a more sensitive soul and this comes across in these short stories.
on 4 May 2010
Beautiful, sparse, evocative, unusual and interesting stories. Hempel's choices of words, sentences, phrases are intriguing yet fill me with much more than what is on the page. For such restrained style of writing, the characters and worlds intrigued me and left me dwelling upon them long after I had put the book down.
on 13 September 2009
I read this book on the recommendation of several people whose tastes I generally applaud and/or share. Amy Hempel has had amazing things written about her in the press and I figured it was time I looked into her work.
However, I can't help but feel disappointed, having read the collection of her four short books of short stories/novellas.
Hempel writes almost tirelessly about things I have no personal interest in or experience of. This would probably be very interesting for others, but none of the reviews or descriptions warn you, so this is my warning to any future potential readers.
Main themes include pets, especially dogs, and children. If you have little experience of or interest in pet-ownership, child-ownership or loss of pets or loss of children, then this is not the book for you. I was bored by it. I skipped the end half of several of the many, many reflections on dogs and children. She describes at length a series of the most cliched and American of situations and scenes - things that as a non-American, I always thought were made up for adverts. Maybe they are, I don't know. Maybe to Americans this all rings true, but a lengthy description of Jello-based desserts; an outing with a frankly unrealistically childlike father and his equally and oppositely adult-like children, to a diner in the car; and White Picket Fence Neighbour anecdotes just don't interest me at all. I can't relate to any of this stuff. Fair enough, some Americans might, but I've definitely wasted my money here.
A couple of the stories had touching or thoughtful moments - one in particular, Memoir, is only a sentence long: "Just once in my life - oh, when have I ever wanted anything just once in my life?" I found that quite thought-provoking, quite witty and simple and elegant. But then another, Housewife, is frankly bizarre and makes no sense:
"She would always sleep with her husband and with another man int he course of the same day, and then the rest of the day, for whatever was left to her of that day, she would exploit by incanting, 'Franch film, French film.'"
I think this book loses a lot of its appeal outside of Suburban America. Be warned.
on 7 November 2012
Bought 2nd hand, which was evident but book was not in a bad condition and seller did say it was 2nd hand which was obviously reflected in the price. Great collection of short stories, and since Hemple is highly recommended on my uni course, it sure beats competing with everyone else for the one edition in the library. Arrived promptly, would recommend the book and the seller.