The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel


Chuck Palahniuk recommended her in his series of essays on Litreactor and his course on writing. When I happened upon this at the library, it was one of those quiet surprises that make me thrill inside. A happy coincidence that I intend to pay forward by reviewing it here.

Hempel’s short fiction, taken individually, are starbursts of delight. Spare, elegaic sentence structure, a mastery of theme, a comfort with the ambiguity and delight of life’s nuances and all of it achingly sweet for it’s brevity. There were stories that made me achingly sad afterwards, wistful and melancholy but without shame for it. She crafts sentence of genuine beauty, some of which haunted me even as I read them.

The likes of Hempel should be better known than they are. There’s so much nourishment and beauty in this book that it should be on prescription. Reading a collected work allows you the pleasure of seeing her pursue different themes and subjects, tackling difficult subjects and finding the raw, bleeding core of humanity within them.

We’re blessed to have Amy Hempel. Read her if you can.

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