Collected Stories [Click the title
to buy this book]
by Amy Hempel
Amy Hempel fans can finally rest in peace. They can stop scouring used bookstores for out-of-print copies of her collections. And they can stop spending a lot of money for them. (Novelist Chuck Palahniuk admitted to dropping $75 on a first edition hardcover of her first collection.)
The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel, due out in May, will include all four of her previous collections—Reasons to Live (1985), At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom (1986), Tumble Home (1997), and The Dog of the Marriage (2005)—all in their entirety and in their original order. The Collected Stories represents, in Hempel’s words, an “honest” trajectory of her work, and sitting down to read these stories as a whole is nothing short of a literary feast.
But remember we’re talking about Amy Hempel here. This feast is neither lavish nor overwrought with sentiment. Her fiction was born in the age of minimalism, under the tutelage and editorial vision of novelist, fiction teacher, and longtime Knopf editor Gordon Lish, at a time when minimalist writers like Raymond Carver, Ann Beattie, and Mary Robison were coming into their own. Her stories are measured, her wit exacting, and her language compressed to its most essential. The word “lapidary” seems to be the most common—and apt—adjective used by reviewers to describe her stories. “It’s all about the sentences,” Rick Moody writes in his beautiful introduction to this collection, “It’s about the way the sentences move in the paragraphs. It’s about rhythm…. It’s about the sentences used to enact and defend survival.”