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1 Beaverton Literature- A to Z

The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel

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The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel Cover

ISBN13: 9780743291637
ISBN10: 0743291638
Condition: Standard
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Excerpt

BEACH TOWN

The house next door was rented for the summer to a couple who swore at missed croquet shots. Their music at night was loud, and I liked it; it was not music I knew. Mornings, I picked up the empties they had lobbed across the hedge, Coronas with the limes wedged inside, and pitched them back over. We had not introduced ourselves these three months.

Between our houses a tall privet hedge is backed by white pine for privacy in winter. The day I heard the voice of a woman not the wife, I went out back to a spot more heavily planted but with a break I could just see through. Now it was the man who was talking, or trying to — he started to say things he could not seem to finish. I watched the woman do something memorable to him with her mouth. Then the man pulled her up from where she had been kneeling. He said, "Maybe you're just hungry. Maybe we should get you something to eat."

The woman had a nimble laugh.

The man said, "Paris is where you and I should go."

The woman asked what was wrong with here. She said, "I like a beach town."

I wanted to phone the wife's office in the city and hear what she would sound like if she answered. I had no fellow feeling; all she had ever said to me was couldn't I mow my lawn later in the day. It was noon when she asked. I told her the village bylaws disallow mowing before seven-thirty, and that I had waited until nine. A gardener, hired by my neighbor, cared for their yard. But still I was sure they were neglecting my neighbor's orchids. All summer long I had watched for the renters to leave the house together so that I could let myself in with the key from the shelf in the shed and test the soil and water the orchids.

The woman who did not want to go to Paris said that she had to leave. "But I don't want you to leave," the man said, and she said, "Think of the kiss at the door."

Nobody thinks about the way sound carries across water. Even the water in a swimming pool. A week later, when her husband was away, the wife had friends to lunch by the pool. I didn't have to hide to listen; I was in view if they had cared to look, pulling weeds in the raspberry canes.

The women told the wife it was an opportunity for her. They said, "Fair is fair," and to do those things she might not otherwise have done. "No regrets," they said, "if you are even the type of person who is given to regret, if you even have that type of wistful temperament to begin with."

The women said, "We are not unintelligent; we just let passion prevail." They said, "Who would deny that we have all had these feelings?"

The women told the wife she would not feel this way forever. "You will feel worse, however, before you feel better, and that is just the way it always is."

The women advised long walks. They told the wife to watch the sun rise and set, to look for solace in the natural world, though they admitted there was no comfort to be found in the world and they would all be fools to expect it.

The weekend the couple next door had moved in — their rental began on Memorial Day — I heard them place a bet on the moon. She said waxing, he said waning. Days later, the moon nearly full in the night sky, I listened for the woman to tell her husband she had won, knowing they had not named the terms of the bet, and that the woman next door would collect nothing.

The Dog of the Marriage copyright © 2005 by Amy Hempel

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mhartford, April 14, 2009 (view all comments by mhartford)
Amy Hempel’s stories are like nothing else in contemporary fiction. They are plotless, almost characterless, but rich in imagery and emotion, more in the mode of confessional poetry than fiction. The language is careful but chatty at the same time, and deceptive in its apparent honesty; the stories invite us in for an intimate talk, but push us away with undisclosed facts.

The “unreliable narrator” is typically a subtle technique: over the course of a story, we begin to suspect that the governess is seeing something other than ghosts, that the grieving husband has an ulterior motive, that . But in Amy Hempel’s stories, the narrators announce their unreliability in plain and direct language, and even warn us when they’re lying.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780743291637
Author:
Hempel, Amy
Publisher:
Scribner Book Company
Introduction by:
Moody, Rick
Introduction:
Moody, Rick
Illustrator:
Moody, Rick
Author:
Moody, Rick
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Short Stories (single author)
Subject:
Stories (single author)
Subject:
United states
Subject:
Social life and customs
Subject:
United States Social life and customs.
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paperback
Publication Date:
20070931
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
432
Dimensions:
8.44 x 5.5 in 13.09 oz

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel Used Trade Paper
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Product details 432 pages Scribner Book Company - English 9780743291637 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

I read The Collected Stories in order, over the course of a single week. My long overdue introduction to Amy Hempel — it was a very good week, indeed. By the time I finished I'd penciled five names onto the back of the last page: friends who'll soon be getting a copy in the mail.

It would not be unfair to call Hempel a writer's writer, but it might be misleading — she's a reader's writer, too. Some of her stories contain only a few lines; few run longer than ten or twelve pages. None rely on high-concept mechanics or lofty language. She demands very little of her readership, and then delivers in spades. Hempel has been called a miniaturist — fair enough — but if her stories tend to be small in scale, they drill as deep as fiction goes. Emotionally charged, fantastically precise, an Amy Hempel story is a miracle of articulation.

"Staff Pick" by ,

Of our two positions — you, not having read Amy Hempel, and me, having read and loved Amy Hempel — the equivalents are as follows: If we were playing Monopoly, consider Park Place mine. If we were trying to determine who tops whom in the food chain, please trust that you'd be the thin blade of saw grass in the mouth of the lamb I stalked for dinner. I play first chair in the philharmonic, I toss first pitch at the World Series. What I'm saying is reading Amy Hempel gives you the advantage. Because her fiction is perfect — her prose so distilled, you couldn't imagine she could pack in one voluminous truth after another (but she does); her understanding of undercurrent is so eerie, I find I sometimes have to brace myself for what's to come. It's all too easy to dismiss the hyperbole of book blurbs, but I invite you to open any page and start reading. I promise you'll already be a little better off for it.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Hempel's four collections of short fiction are all masterful; while readers await the follow-up to last year's acclaimed The Dog of the Marriage, this compendium restores the full set to print. The first of Hempel's books, Reasons to Live (1985), is justly celebrated by Rick Moody in his preface as a landmark of its era's 'short-story renaissance'; it introduces Hempel's unmistakable tone, where a 'besieged consciousness,' Moody says, hones sentences to bladelike sharpness 'to enact and defend survival.' The second, At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom (1990), is the main reason to buy this book: used copies are scarce, and the collection contains stories like 'The Harvest.' Hempel's genius, whether in first or third person, is to make her characters' feelings completely integral to the scenes they inhabit; her terse descriptions become elegantly telegraphic — and telepathic — reportage, with not a word wasted and not a single fact embellished. Her great subject is the failure of human coupling, and she charts it at every stage: giddy beginnings, sexy thick-of-its, wan (or violent) outcomes, grim aftermaths. Seeing it laid out kaleidoscopically in this volume is an awesome thing indeed, and a pleasure lovers of the short story will not want to deny themselves. Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "Few fiction writers are as intensely admired by their peers as is Hempel, though she's never published a novel. Her reputation rests solely on the four landmark collections of short fiction gathered here....Although leavened by a wry rue, Hempel's is a hard-boiled sensibility, and each of her stories — many only a few pages long, and one of which consists of a single sentence — will leave the reader shaken..." (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
"Review" by , "Hempel writes with an effortless wit...showing us the larger shapes of our lives by capturing their most fleeting and fragmentary moments."
"Review" by , "Each story is so tight, so boiled to bare facts, that all you can do is lie on the floor, face down, and praise it."
"Review" by , "There are writers who pull you along in deep, satisfying drafts of narrative and human color; then there are writers who, sentence by sentence, cause you to stop breathing. Hempel leads the latter group."
"Review" by , "This could be a very short review. Read this book. These stories are...always original and perfectly expressed."
"Review" by , "Hempel is unique. Her word-by-word virtuosity is off the charts; her artistic evolution is phenomenal."
"Synopsis" by , With her trademark compassion and wit, Hempel takes readers into the marriages, minor disasters, and moments of revelation in an uneasy America.
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