Synopses & Reviews
Amy Hempel's compassion, intensity, and illuminating observations have made her one of the most distinctive and admired modern writers. In three stunning books of stories, she has established a voice as unique and recognizable as the photographs of Cindy Sherman or the brushstrokes of Robert Motherwell. The Dog of the Marriage,
Hempel's fourth collection, is about sexual obsession, relationships gone awry, and the unsatisfied longings of everyday life.
In "Offertory," a modern-day Scheherazade entertains and manipulates her lover with stories of her sexual encounters with a married couple as a very young woman. In "Reference # 388475848-5," a letter contesting a parking ticket becomes a beautiful and unnerving statement of faith. In "Jesus Is Waiting," a woman driving to New York sends a series of cryptically honest postcards to an old lover. And the title story is a heartbreaking tale about the objects and animals and unmired desires that are left behind after death or divorce.
These nine stories teem with wisdom, emotion, and surprising wit. Hempel explores the intricate psychology of people falling in and out of love, trying to locate something or someone elusive or lost. Her sentences are as lean, original, and startling as any in contemporary fiction.
"'[W]as there anybody who wasn't here to get over something too?' wonders the narrator in the sublime 'Offertory.' Not in this book, Hempel's fourth collection (after 1997's Tumble Home), as unnamed narrators struggle with breakups, disillusionment, loss. Two marriages come to grief in the title story: the narrator's husband falls in love with someone else, while her gift of a dog has tragic consequences for another couple. In 'Jesus Is Waiting,' a woman mourning the loss of her lover's affection drives obsessively, becoming a connoisseur of truck stops and budget motels, 'moved to tears when the lane I am in merges with another.' The 50-year-old narrator of 'The Uninvited' muses on the eponymous movie as she delays taking a pregnancy test; the potential father is either her estranged husband or her rapist. Dogs appear often, as creatures more giving and wise than the men and women who own them. All the remarkable, original obliqueness of Hempel's previous work is here, but with slightly less of its heart, and an earlier lightheartedness has been exchanged for a kind of gorgeous severity, as if each story began at four times its length and was stripped away until only what was essential remained. Though it's not the most accessible of collections, it's deeply affecting, as Hempel paints a fictional world that is sharp and lonely but also marked by beauty and unexpected generosity. Agent, Liz Darhansoff. (Mar. 1)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[T]hese pinpointed stories achieve something more fleshed-out work often doesn't: they tell us not just what life is like but the authentic way to see it." D. T. Max, The New York Times Book Review
"Sketchy, in all, with moments of the breathtaking language that characterizes Hempel's best work." Kirkus Reviews
"Hempel handles the treatment of pain and love with a combination of confusion, resignation, and healthy respect. If this were music, it would be played in a modal tuning, dark and timeless." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Reading Amy Hempel's work is like inhabiting a stranger's body for a fleeting moment: we don't need names or physical descriptions and yet the understanding of that character of her history, her desires, her sorrows is profound. Each story in The Dog of Marriage achieves an intimacy in only a few hundred words that many novels fail to achieve in a few hundred pages." Tin House magazine
"Amy Hempel is one of our masters of offhandedly rendered dire emotional states. Her fiction is breath-catchingly tender and funny. With The Dog of the Marriage
she turns her stunningly dispassionate and compassionate eye to erotic love and longing, to characters who let passion prevail. The stories that result are both spectacularly intimate and beautifully built, and bring us back to the question that powers all her work: Can we take each other in?
-- Jim Shepard, author of Project X and Love and Hydrogen
is the kind of book you can open anywhere and the prose wins your absolute trust. There's not a soggy patch or word. It's wonderful. I love it."
-- Alice Munro, author of Runaway
"In airports and on trains, the toughest part of reading The Dog of the Marriage
is how much your jaw muscles ache from the effort it takes to not laugh and cry in front of strangers. Amy Hempel is my god among writers."
-- Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club and Haunted
"Hempel writes with an effortless wit...showing us the larger shapes of our lives by capturing their most fleeting and fragmentary moments."
-- Elizabeth Gleick, The New York Times Book Review
From one of the most highly acclaimed short story writers of the past three decades, a glittering collection about sex, marriage and dogs.
About the Author
Amy Hempel is the author of Tumble Home, Reasons to Live, and At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom, and the coeditor of Unleashed. Her stories have appeared in Elle, GQ, Harper's, Playboy, The Quarterly, and Vanity Fair. She teaches in the Graduate Writing Program at Bennington College and lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
Jesus Is Waiting
What Were the White Things?
The Dog of the Marriage