Books by Amy Hempel

Amy Hempel (b. 1951) was born in Chicago and spent her early years in California, where she attended Whittier College and San Francisco State College—"your basic non-linear education," she called it. She moved to New York to pursue a career in writing and

SING TO IT by Amy Hempel
Released: March 26, 2019

"Hempel's great gift is that her indirection only leads us further inward, toward the place where her characters must finally reckon with themselves."
The first collection in more than a decade from Hempel offers a dizzying array of short fiction held together by the unmistakable textures of her voice. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 17, 2010

"These stories are less reflective of the state of Southern fiction than the state of the contemporary short story. 'Though one's sense of geography is keen,' writes Hempel, 'it's hard to feel that there is much that separates us after reading the stories collected here.'"
The annual anthology celebrates a quarter-century with a stellar selection. Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2005

"Sketchy, in all, with moments of the breathtaking language that characterizes Hempel's best work."
Another slim volume from Hempel (Tumble Home, 1997, etc.), the theme this time being skewed and skewered relationships (and, yes, there are dogs in many of the stories). Read full book review >
TUMBLE HOME by Amy Hempel
Released: May 7, 1997

Hempel's third volume of precious miniatures (At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom, 1990, etc.) includes a novella that reads like an inflated version of its short, fragile companion pieces, one no more than a paragraph long. Which would be fine if that paragraph (``Housewife'') were a finely etched, poetically dense bit of prose, but it's just short and rather silly. The six other pieces, some a page or two long, are offered in support of Hempel's claim that the miraculous abides in the ordinary, which here seems to mean scenes of domesticity, full of babies, children's games, and dogs. ``Church Cancels Cow'' and ``The Annex'' both concern the narrator's house, set across the street from a cemetery, where, we learn, one can watch dogs roaming and where a headstone for a dead baby is visible from every room. Summer resorts are the settings for three vignettes: ``Weekend,'' an idyll spoiled only when the men leave for work on Monday; ``The Children's Party,'' which features a moose sighting; and ``The New Lodger,'' the narrator's return to the site of past loves. The longer ``Sportsman'' chronicles a rough patch in a marriage, which the husband deals with by heading east to stay with friends on Long Island. The title novella is an extended letter written by the narrator from a sanitarium, and reflects the bitter patter of mental patients, odd comments hinting of deeper meanings. She writes to a famous painter with whom she once had tea, and tells him about her fellow ``guests'' at the former girls' school, such as Chatty, the southern belle and telepathic healer. The narrator fills her time by walking dogs from a nearby shelter and brooding on her mother, a frustrated artist who committed suicide. These ramblings try to impress with their sensitivity to ``objects in the world,'' but come across as an accumulation of scattered bits. Tales much like the poetry Hempel quotes: imagistic with no emotional or aesthetic heft, nor even a particular sensitivity to language. Read full book review >