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The Collected Stories

Amy Hempel, Author, Rick Moody, Illustrator
Amy Hempel, Author, Rick Moody, Illustrator . Scribner $26 (409p) ISBN 978-0-7432-8946-7
Ebook - 432 pages - 978-1-4165-4603-0
Paperback - 405 pages - 978-0-7432-9163-7
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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. (May)

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