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[P]
A Shift in the Light

By mikepence in Culture
Mon May 16, 2005 at 01:22:22 AM EST
Tags: Interviews (all tags)
Interviews

She ruins you. A page into Amy Hempel's latest slim collection of stories, The Dog of the Marriage, and you're captivated. A couple of chapters later and you're in love. That last page -- that goddamned last page -- it breaks your heart.

It's over and you'll wonder how you'll ever read anyone else again.

But don't take my word for it. Amy's stories present a montage of scenes that assemble themselves in your mind like a dream. Gritty, raw, funny, erotic. "At any horrible moment," Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk says, "you might pick up a copy of Hempel and find your best work is just a cheap rip-off of her worst."


The title story of her new collection opens like this:
On the last night of the marriage, my husband and I went to the ballet. We sat behind a blind man; his guide dog, in harness, lay beside him in the aisle of the theater. I could not keep my attention on the performance; instead, I watched the guide dog watch the performance. Throughout the evening, the dog's head moved, following the dancers across the stage. Every so often the dog would whimper slightly. "Because he can hear high notes we can't?" my husband said. "No," I said, "because he was disappointed in the choreography."
Funny yet tragic moments cascade off the page unencumbered by torturous transitions or improbable plot lines. "That's what I think anybody can recognize - moments," she said in our interview, "a moment that stands out for a particular reason, where the light shifted."

She's been blessed and cursed under the rubric of Minimalism, a style with its roots in the work of Poe and Chekhov, in the short stories of James Joyce and the early work of Hemingway. Contemporary writers like Raymond Carver, Mary Robison, Chuck Palahniuk and the remarkable Craig Clevenger (The Contortionist's Handbook) write in a similar style - all spiritual children of literary Minimalism's godfather, Gordon Lish. "Somebody said its like a Pointillist painting," said Amy, "point, point, point, point...moment, moment, moment...you stand back and it adds up to something."

Something that defies much of the conventional wisdom about writing, provoking critics like Sven Birkets in the New Republic to accuse Amy of abrogating "literary responsibility" altogether.

Whatever the fuck that means.

For all of their spare prose, her stories are imbued with a palpable sense of depth, a hulking shadow under the waves. As Hemingway said:

If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.
This sense of depth is the product of recursion. Each sentence is the product of the ones that came before.  Amy said, "Gordon [Lish] used to talk about 'recursive writing' - you go back to what you did before and you veer from it. You can't help but create a feeling - not of just layering - but of going deeper and deeper down -- amplifying the thing each time you hit it. Really it's about a kind of logical writing where what you did before tells you what to do next."

Amy shirks the Minimalist label. "Minimalism carries a pejorative quality to it because it was hurled at some of us over a period of time," she said. She prefers the label Carver put on her and Robison: Precisionist. But Dr. Cynthia Hallett, author of Minimalism and the Short Story--Raymond Carver, Amy Hempel, and Mary Robison, told me that we are seeing "a Renaissance in the study of Minimalism in literature both in Europe and the US. We are getting to a point where Minimalism is being seen as a valid form and people have quit being so hurt by the term."

The Dog of the Marriage is Amy's fourth collection. Reasons to Live, At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom and Tumble Home were all equally impressive. Her first story, In the Cemetery where Al Jolson is Buried -- a deeply touching story about the death of her best friend -- has been translated into over seventeen languages and has been widely anthologized.

With Animal Kingdom long out of print and available used starting at $120, along with the tendency of loaned out Hempel books to never come back, it was a relief to hear from Amy -- exclusively -- that all of her collected stories will be coming out in a single volume this time next year.

For aspiring writers, Minimalist or otherwise, Amy has simple advice: "Get better friends. I just have such amazingly wonderful, inspiring friends who are extremely quotable. It's really wonderful to be in the company of people you love to listen to. And read! You read these things that make you want to respond, something that gets me to that place where I feel smarter and brave enough to try and say something back."

Brave enough to ruin you. Brave enough to break your heart.

 

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Related Links
o The Dog of the Marriage
o Fight Club
o The Contortionist's Handbook
o Minimalism and the Short Story--Raymond Carver, Amy Hempel, and Mary Robison
o Reasons to Live
o At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom
o Tumble Home
o Also by mikepence


Display: Sort:
A Shift in the Light | 87 comments (47 topical, 40 editorial, 0 hidden)
Excellent Review +1FP (1.83 / 6) (#2)
by blackpaw on Sat May 14, 2005 at 07:30:47 PM EST

Obviously your style is inspired by her work, we need more of this at K5. Inspired me to look her up on our library system - but we have none of her work.

Bugger.

As an aspiring writer, (3.00 / 10) (#32)
by Kasreyn on Sun May 15, 2005 at 11:38:07 AM EST

I have to point out that her advice is poison. The more you read, the more you discover that everything, and I do mean precisely and entirely everything, has already been done before, usually much better than you could. Trying to pass oneself off as a "serious writer" is always an act of completely unwarranted courage, and reading new creative fiction is the greatest single threat to that courage. The better-read you are, the more clearly you understand that your own work is shit. At least when you're ignorant you can delude yourself that you're original. :P

But then, as my favorite author once said, "Anyone who can be discouraged from becoming a writer, should be." So read away, as long as you're willing to accept never ever in a million years being as cool and hip as Chuck or Amy or Neil. Hell, you'll be lucky if you just manage a career in pulp hackdom; vacancies in that industry are awarded with the same high-handed unpredictability as seats at the trendy table. You might as well roll the dice.

Seriously, though, I appreciated the review. I'll put Hempel on the list. When it comes down to it, I suppose I enjoy reading more than pride.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
I just bought it: very very good. (3.00 / 2) (#38)
by maynard on Sun May 15, 2005 at 05:24:30 PM EST

Went to Harvard Sq to meet up with some friends and get coffee. After doing the hangout thing I went to a nearby bookstore and picked up a copy. Finished the first two short stories: Beach Town and Jesus is Waiting. Yeah, she's fucking good. The book is also well bound and printed on high quality paper. It will last. So, recommended. --M

Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.
[ Parent ]
ty! -nt (none / 0) (#43)
by Kasreyn on Sun May 15, 2005 at 11:05:09 PM EST

nt
"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
You need to read more bad books. (3.00 / 5) (#46)
by Psycho Dave on Mon May 16, 2005 at 03:02:18 AM EST

I hate that feeling after reading a great book that it has accomplished something you can never reach, or touched something you could never conceive.

I'm more inspired by bad literature, especially best selling bad literature. It reminds you that if that writer with their contrived plot, wooden dialogue, and characters who barely rate as one dimensional can get their manuscript published and in every Wal-Mart in the country, you could take over the world.

[ Parent ]

Neil who? (n/t) (none / 0) (#50)
by smithmc on Mon May 16, 2005 at 11:49:49 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Gaiman. (none / 0) (#63)
by Kasreyn on Tue May 17, 2005 at 12:20:15 AM EST

I just realized that one could have interpreted it as Neil Stephenson, who's pretty damned good too.

Philip K. Dick is also on the list of writers I wish I were as cool as.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
I thought so, but... (none / 0) (#68)
by smithmc on Tue May 17, 2005 at 09:55:34 AM EST

...I didn't want to presume. Gaiman is excellent. When he works with Pratchett he's even better.

I just realized that one could have interpreted it as Neil Stephenson, who's pretty damned good too.

Well, actually that's Neal Stephenson, and yes he is. Too bad he's probably going to take a long vacation after that last trilogy.

Philip K. Dick is also on the list of writers I wish I were as cool as.

Excellent writer, but... cool? Speed-crazed paranoid schizophrenic is more like it. But well worth reading. If there were a writer I wish I were as cool as, it'd be Sterling, maybe.

[ Parent ]

What else has he done with Pratchett? (none / 0) (#72)
by LilDebbie on Tue May 17, 2005 at 05:01:49 PM EST

_Good Omens_ was cool and all, but I didn't think they had a continuing professional relationship.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
Just Good Omens so far... (none / 0) (#77)
by smithmc on Wed May 18, 2005 at 05:45:54 PM EST

...but I hope they do more together.

[ Parent ]
Your posts here are excellent (none / 1) (#52)
by mikepence on Mon May 16, 2005 at 12:31:07 PM EST

Keep it up.

You really have to put mental blinders on. For this interview, I read dozens of other articles about Hempel, Lish, Carver, Minimalism -- all of which were useful when it came time to talk to Amy. Then I had to forget all of that and just write.

Sure, it has all been said before, but not by you, and even though you may start on well-trodden ground your own perspective will quickly lead you into virgin territory, or at least place that is uniquely your own.

[ Parent ]

hey, thanks for the vote of confidence. :) (none / 0) (#56)
by Kasreyn on Mon May 16, 2005 at 01:49:05 PM EST

you're under no obligation to vote up my fiction if I ever do decide to run the gauntlet here, though. ;)


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
What are you waiting for? (none / 0) (#59)
by mikepence on Tue May 17, 2005 at 12:15:14 AM EST

You are smart as fuck and an excellent writer.

Your writing gives me a woody. I hope you are not a guy.

[ Parent ]

lol (none / 0) (#62)
by Kasreyn on Tue May 17, 2005 at 12:18:54 AM EST

Sadly, I have been a male all along, despite certain scurrilous rumors propagated by my detractors. :P


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Damnit! (none / 0) (#64)
by mikepence on Tue May 17, 2005 at 12:21:46 AM EST

I need to take a shower...

[ Parent ]
a load of bunk (none / 1) (#65)
by aendeuryu on Tue May 17, 2005 at 01:35:35 AM EST

You read to get a sense of voice, style, ideas, to understand the philosophy of literature out there. This can't escape influence, and never could, so long as it's based on language. But what you inject into it is your own experience and the experiences of those around you, which cannot be duplicated. The idea that there is nothing new is itself not new. There hasn't been any new form in a long time, but subject matter? Come on.

[ Parent ]
Not quite everything (none / 0) (#71)
by LilDebbie on Tue May 17, 2005 at 04:33:28 PM EST

Just most everything you'll likely ever think of. There is, after all, always the Long Tail (term used to piss people off).

I'm looking forward to when my cracked out, barely sensical writing style become vogue for 15 seconds. It is original, but it's rather deviant which seems to confuse/detract people from reading much of it.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
+1 I hate literature. (1.50 / 2) (#45)
by mjfgates on Sun May 15, 2005 at 11:34:02 PM EST

Always have, always will. not sure if it's because of idiot high-school english teachers (I did have one non-idiot high-school english teacher, but Perry taught no literature classes! Strictly composition, that guy) or what. The fact that Steinbeck is considered "literature" can't help. I predict that on the hundredth anniversary of his death, somebody will open a time capsule with proof that he was some sort of chimera like the "person" who wrote Naked Came the Stranger.

Steinbeck is hit and miss (none / 0) (#49)
by HollyHopDrive on Mon May 16, 2005 at 11:23:22 AM EST

The Pearl is pretentious and pointless. The Red Pony is a good children's book. Of Mice and Men is wonderful.


I make too much sense to be on the Internet.
[ Parent ]

On response (3.00 / 3) (#47)
by tetsuwan on Mon May 16, 2005 at 07:18:20 AM EST

The Swedish writer Bengt Ohlsson wrote Gregorius in response to Doktor Glas by Hjalmar Söderberg. In Doktor Glas, a lonely physician (Glas) falls in love with the young wife of an older priest (Gregorius). The wife is disgusted by Gregorius and Glas helps her by telling Gregorius that bedroom activity is not good for his wife's health. When that plan falls through, he sends Gregorius off to a spa for his "heart problems". Gregorius is described as a revolting character throughout the whole book.

Now, what Bengt Ohlsson does, while being true to Söderbergs setting, is rewriting the story from the sorry old priest's perspective. This response to an old classic (in Swedish canon) became Ohlsson's best novel ever. So, indeed it is possible to read, react and respond with excellent fiction.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance

of course (none / 0) (#51)
by samu on Mon May 16, 2005 at 11:59:17 AM EST

now, if you wrote fiction in response to other fiction, you'd get your pants sued off by whomever felt they "owned" the idea of a cartoon mouse, or a boy wizard, etc, etc.

[ Parent ]
Yeah (none / 0) (#54)
by tetsuwan on Mon May 16, 2005 at 12:44:00 PM EST

Bengt Ohlsson writes for the publishing house that holds the rights to "Doktor Glas". Thus there is no conflict.

On a side note Charlie Christensen did the comic Arne Anka which is obviously based on Donald Duck. Of course Charlie was sued by Disney. He the showed a couple of close-ups where you could make out that Arne's duck beak is actually a fake, a strap-on. So he avoided being sued. I don't think the comic was ever translated to English, which certainly deminished the fervor of Disney's interest in the matter.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Arne Anka (none / 0) (#73)
by MrHanky on Tue May 17, 2005 at 07:29:47 PM EST

is truly fantastic. And he's not as much based on Donald Duck as he looks like him; he's a failed poet and drunkard who also happens to be a duck and wear a sailor's suit. Dark, coarse, and bitterly funny stuff.

He's also a far better literary critic than mikepence (I'm thinking of the story set in Paris, when Arne Anka meets Hemingway).

A good reason to learn Swedish.


"This was great, because it was a bunch of mature players who were able to express themselves and talk politics." Lettuce B-Free, on being a total fucking moron for Ron Paul.
[ Parent ]

I know. Only their looks are alike. (none / 0) (#81)
by tetsuwan on Sun May 22, 2005 at 07:50:57 PM EST

While Arne Anka certainly is funny at times, he's also a typical male cynic. Being cynical is the easy way out.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Is he? (none / 0) (#84)
by MrHanky on Mon May 23, 2005 at 04:57:31 PM EST

I don't think the typical male cynic would admit to write poetry. Poetry is, after all, for girls and romantics. But maybe that's why Anka is such a good portrayal of the cynic -- it makes it possible to show the irony of his cynical position.

Anyway, I don't consider the comic books themselves to be too cynical. Only the characters.


"This was great, because it was a bunch of mature players who were able to express themselves and talk politics." Lettuce B-Free, on being a total fucking moron for Ron Paul.
[ Parent ]

Ah, well (none / 0) (#85)
by tetsuwan on Tue May 24, 2005 at 04:34:36 AM EST

It's been acouple of years since I read Arne, though. 15, perhaps. The actually made a play out of Arne Anka, starring one of the most prominent Swedish comedians (Robert Gustafsson), supposedly it was really good.

Thinking before speaking is like wiping your ass before taking a dump

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Nice referer link. (1.00 / 4) (#48)
by Tau on Mon May 16, 2005 at 10:06:30 AM EST

nt

---
WHEN THE REVOLUTION COMES WE WILL MAKE SAUSAGES OUT OF YOUR FUCKING ENTRAILS - TRASG0
For the record (none / 0) (#79)
by mikepence on Sun May 22, 2005 at 03:27:01 PM EST

Rusty thinks referrer links are ok. There was a lot of discussion about that when this was in the queue.

Anyway, it turns out that I did not earn a single penny. 136 click-throughs, but no buys so far. Cheap bastards. ;-)

But I did get to hang out with my favorite living author on the phone for a half hour, and I got to let a lot of other people hear about her and her work. So, the story was its own reward.

[ Parent ]

Sorry... (none / 0) (#87)
by Ranieri on Tue May 24, 2005 at 11:47:31 AM EST

I did order the book online, but from another retailer and not goign through the link. If I'd noticed the referral i'd have ordered it through that since I don't really have a reason for preferring one retailer over the other and all other things being equal I dont have any particular problem with some of the cash making its way to you instead of in Bezo's coffers.
--
Taste cold steel, feeble cannon restraint rope!
[ Parent ]
you know (none / 0) (#53)
by samu on Mon May 16, 2005 at 12:32:08 PM EST

this is the kind of article I'm really supposed to like. well-written, intelligent, etc. the kind of article that is supposed to be "good" for K5.

but why is it just more entertaining for me to engage in "debate" with Baldrson or a handful of others on bizarre political or tax schemes?

At the risk of being flamed... (2.57 / 7) (#57)
by nate s on Mon May 16, 2005 at 03:49:20 PM EST

 - oh, it's k5, I should expect flaming.

Anyway, I think that it's because this article is sappy and pretentious.  Some people like it, because it makes them feel "smart" in that holding-your-pinky-in-the-air-while-you-drink-your-tea way.  My ex-girlfriend was like that.

Basically it's just an emotional ramble full of media-bytes like "Gritty, raw, funny, erotic." and "Brave enough to ruin you. Brave enough to break your heart."  You know, the sort of thing you'd expect to see as the byline for the latest Mel Gibson historical-drama chick flick.

I think the random debate is more interesting because it's forcing you to think outside the box.  The topics and the personalities are far removed from mainstream; they may even attack you and force you to evaluate your own viewpoints, even if the attack is only in jest.

Articles like this are completely inside the wannabe literary expert box.  They don't challenge you; they're not even original.  It's just meta-commentary on the original work.  I'd much rather read "This chick's books r0x0rz, check it!!11" and then decide for myself, than some "intelligent," emotional, near-angst-fest like the parent.

[ Parent ]

It could also be (none / 0) (#58)
by tetsuwan on Mon May 16, 2005 at 06:10:59 PM EST

that while most people here pay taxes, only about five or ten has ever read Amy Hempel short stories.

I know what you're aiming at with your comment, but I don't think this is about thinking inside or outside the box. I think you mistake it for male, cynical and over-simplifying.

But I agree that the parent story could be more focused and less glossed over. With all that background material, he could have been more obsessive about some detail he thought was more important than the others. The category discussion could have been left out.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Obsessive stuff? (none / 1) (#61)
by mikepence on Tue May 17, 2005 at 12:18:41 AM EST

That is Mr. Crawford's domain...

[ Parent ]
obsessive (none / 0) (#69)
by tetsuwan on Tue May 17, 2005 at 11:46:21 AM EST

as in Archimedes. Not portraiting a writer, but nailing them. In a friendly manner.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

What I was aiming at... (none / 0) (#70)
by nate s on Tue May 17, 2005 at 11:56:43 AM EST

...was really what you touched on in the second part of your comment.  

By inside/outside the box, I meant essentially reviewing things as if you want them to be published in some pseudo-intellectual journal of literature, or just saying what you actually think about the story.  The random debate crowd tends to give you exactly what they think, whether or not it's actually intelligent, and I find the straightforward quality refreshing.  The "box," in this case, is the author's preconception of what a book/story review "should be."  The review fits squarely "in the box" in this case.

Granted, I've been informed that, sans stories on the queue, my opinion is worthless - so whatever.:-)

[ Parent ]

'round three or four' [lumps] (none / 1) (#74)
by coffeestained on Wed May 18, 2005 at 04:15:53 AM EST

>>only about five or ten has ever read Amy Hempel short stories.

And isn't the semi-point of these exact kind of articles to possibly let others know there is quality work out there?
Yes, everyone knows about Stephen King, of course Dan Brown is currently the General Public's favourite "writer", but if not for some of these few true skilled craftsmen and women, whose books needless to say do not sell terribly well nor do they get very well covered in the media, than the form will die quicker than it will anyway.

The reason categories exist on such web forums, and note Mike posted this in "culture", is for a various degree of talks. This is pretty simple to perceive. Those that prefer to "debate" about current events obviously have their own little playground, those that just like to hear themselves talk, more often than not with uninformed "opinions" peppered with sheer exhibitionism tend to piss all over a variety of threads and categories.

Nice work, Mike.
Although I'm confused how a `collected works' will come out by Scribner as a different publisher, with the title still in print, has the rights to _Reasons to Live_...
j


[ Parent ]

While I fully support mike's contribution (none / 0) (#80)
by tetsuwan on Sun May 22, 2005 at 07:40:11 PM EST

I was arguing that it might not generate that much debate.

When a writer is great it sometimes becomes even harder to discuss the qualities of his/her work. This is probably because discussing a writer like Hempel or Borges would take thinking and actual effort.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Look (none / 1) (#60)
by mikepence on Tue May 17, 2005 at 12:16:54 AM EST

Stop projecting your shit with your ex on me. You try typing with your pinkies raised -- it is not so easy.

Put up or shut up, bitch. The queue is right over there...

[ Parent ]

empty. (3.00 / 2) (#75)
by the ghost of rmg on Wed May 18, 2005 at 08:18:31 AM EST

debate with people here does not force you to think outside of the box unless you're an imbecile. that, however, is precisely your situation.

what your writing here says is that you can't relate to someone who is engaged with literature on the level mike is and that you hate people who are -- hence comparisons to the whore you used to go out with and your claims that it is somehow inauthentic to use language like mike's.

oh, but i'm assuming so much! i don't know anything about you! no, here's the proof: "they may even attack you and force you to evalueate your own viewpoints" -- so why couldn't this piece do the same? simple: you don't have a viewpoint to attack. you cannot engage with this through your own ignorance and you want to believe that the problem is that someone isn't thinking outside of the box -- or rather, outside of their box and inside yours.

your comment is a vacuous attack on something you hate because you don't understand it. you're so psychologically invested in believing in the superiority of your intellect that you try to make someone who obviously knows more than you, and has a perspective you can't even understand, somehow less than you. but some people -- not the hordes of pathetic slashnerds who think watching anime makes them literate and call humanities students stupid, all the while unable to get through anything more intense than a man page -- some people know what you are when they see you. they know you are just a scared kid who ran into a bigger kid and went back to his friends to say how he isn't so tough.

you're pathetic, nate. you are what's wrong with kuro5hin.


rmg: comments better than yours.
[ Parent ]

Now I feel like I truly belong! n/t (1.50 / 2) (#76)
by nate s on Wed May 18, 2005 at 09:58:55 AM EST



[ Parent ]
My "minimalistic" review (none / 0) (#55)
by urdine on Mon May 16, 2005 at 12:59:45 PM EST

A Touchy-feely Raymond Carver.

Looks good... (none / 0) (#66)
by tsunami on Tue May 17, 2005 at 02:59:25 AM EST

I think I'll check it out.

BTW, why is 'mikepence' in the URL of all the Amazon links? Do you get credit for referrals or something?


--------------
I also saw a madman crazily pumping this polygon thing to roughly the same timing as a functional wank. - A Trolled An Anonymised Englishman
No one linked to "The Harvest" yet? (3.00 / 3) (#67)
by Ranieri on Tue May 17, 2005 at 05:56:56 AM EST

Arguably her best short story, available online.

It will take you no more than 10 minutes to read it, so take a chance and see if you like it.
--
Taste cold steel, feeble cannon restraint rope!

not impressed (none / 0) (#78)
by ergodic on Sun May 22, 2005 at 12:25:44 PM EST

I followed the link... not impressed, at all. In fact, very disappointed. It seemed like a random collection of memories surrounding one event. To me good writing always communicates a point, no matter what form it comes in, and what genre it falls under--- I didn't see one here. What does a harvest have to do with anything?

[ Parent ]
Points; dull and sharp (none / 0) (#82)
by coffeestained on Mon May 23, 2005 at 04:38:15 AM EST

>It seemed like a random collection of memories
>surrounding one event.

Maybe that's what it 'seemed like', but it's not what it is.

>To me good writing always communicates a point

Maybe your verb of choice here is "storytelling"?
And I disagree, regardless.

Although with your closing of the post I guess I'd ask "what is a `point'"?
And from your beginning it seems that you would also say `more than "one" event has to take place'?

> I didn't see one here.

While I certainly wouldn't say there is no, um, "point" to the story...maybe you would have been more pleased if an elf or an hobbit appeared?

> What does a harvest have to do with anything?

Oi...

[ Parent ]

PS (none / 0) (#83)
by coffeestained on Mon May 23, 2005 at 04:44:28 AM EST

...I did mean to say...'but yes, clearly Hempel does not appeal to all readers, which is understandable...'

[ Parent ]
There is a point ... (none / 1) (#86)
by Ranieri on Tue May 24, 2005 at 11:36:14 AM EST

... it's just not hammered in your face.

A big point of minimalism as a literary current is to show, not to tell. Don't say someone is old, fat, lazy or handsome or any other subjective adjective. Have them say or do something that marks them as such. The opening sentence is the textbook example. The vahz vs. vase tells you a story about a young woman attempting to appeat cultured and sophisticated. She could just have said that, but it would not have been the same thing. Much in the same way there is a point to the story, but it will not be spelled out.
Chuck Palahniuk outlines minimalism in general and his thoughts on this story in particular in this LA weekly article.

It seemed like a random collection of memories surrounding one event.

It does ... except that it's not. Just about every word is there for a reason, placed with meticulous care.

What does a harvest have to do with anything?

As mentioned in the second part, the title was supposed to be "Marrigeability". See the part about "the lawyer was the one who used the word". "Harvest" refers to the donor organ for the transplant patient in the next bed, but the way I see it it's slightly more than a red herring.

I'll be the first to admit that Hempel is not for everyone. It's a very peculiar style that requires effort and, I presume, a particular disposition. In fact, that's one of the reasons I posted the link, so people can see for themselves.
--
Taste cold steel, feeble cannon restraint rope!
[ Parent ]

A Shift in the Light | 87 comments (47 topical, 40 editorial, 0 hidden)
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