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Story time
July 30, 2007 8:44 AM   Subscribe

You should read these three stories by Amy Hempel. (Oh, and maybe listen to her read, here.) While you're at it, read some of these idiosyncratic but beautifully-written stories by grammarian Gary Lutz.
posted by dersins (19 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
(Don't hold it against Hempel that no-talent hack Chuck Palahniuk likes her so much...)
posted by dersins at 9:32 AM on July 30, 2007


Don't you think derisively hating on Hempel's famous fans is a little crass? I'm likelier to hold your recommendation against her than his, if your implication is that literarily consorting with the likes of Palahniuk diminishes the valid appreciation of Hempel.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:02 AM on July 30, 2007


My implication about Hempel was the opposite of that.

My statement about Palahniuk, however, stands.
posted by dersins at 11:04 AM on July 30, 2007


I didn't say you implied anything about Hempel. Rather, readers. To restate, recommending one author I like by trashing another I like isn't exactly selling me on your judgment.

It wouldn't hurt your post & comment to seriously discuss the authors and their differences, instead of just crying Rah Rah Hempel/Boo Hiss Palahniuk, if you can.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:22 AM on July 30, 2007


I posted some links to some stories, along with some links providing context.

Read them or don't read them; like them or don't like them.

I don't know why you seem to believe you need me to tell you why Hempel and Lutz are better and more interesting prose stylists than Palahniuk.
posted by dersins at 11:38 AM on July 30, 2007


The Lutz stories are pretty decent; he has a knack for description. The Hempel, on the other hand...soulless, forgettable chicklit. Ugh.
posted by nasreddin at 11:43 AM on July 30, 2007


I read the Hempel's story under your "these" link. Interesting use of the unreliable narrator, but the opening is so cumbersome (even if intentionally so) that I almost didn't go on. Without her byline, would most slush pile attendees persevere?
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 11:50 AM on July 30, 2007


She writes like a Pratt creative writing major for whom writing is only a hobby. A tedious, mushy blend of "cleverness" and melodrama.
posted by nasreddin at 11:56 AM on July 30, 2007


I just think dissing an author in order to promote one is crass. I wanted to say so. Put your italics away.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:01 PM on July 30, 2007


Come on. Who cares? Palanhuik isn't the kind of fragile, sensitive young scribbler whose career--and worse, self-esteem--would be endangered by drive-by mockery.
posted by nasreddin at 12:06 PM on July 30, 2007


Agreed. That wasn't my point though, I had our membership, not Palahniuk himself in mind. But I don't need to keep carping about a transgression against my sensibilities of propriety any more. kthxbye
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:09 PM on July 30, 2007


soulless, forgettable chicklit

That perfectly sums up what I disliked about Hempel but couldn't quite figure out how to express when I gave up on The Collected Stories halfway through. Soulless is exactly it. I just didn't care at all what happened in any of the stories.
posted by rusty at 12:13 PM on July 30, 2007


Let's not talk about Amy Hempel. Let's talk about Gary Lutz, probably the most underappreciated living American writer. His first collection Stories in the Worst Way changed my life in a number of ways, all of them for the better. I had a short correspondence with him in late 2001 and he is one of the nicest, most thoughtful people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. I owe him a lot.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:46 PM on July 30, 2007


Gary Lutz, probably the most underappreciated living American writer.

I completely agree. He's amazing. I just got his new chapbook at Powell's, and it's almost as good as Stories in the Worst Way, which, as you know, is saying something.
posted by dersins at 1:21 PM on July 30, 2007


Chicklit? Really? What qualifies these stories to be called chicklit, other than the fact that they're written by a woman? The charge of soullessness is more understandable; she does cultivate a flatness of affect that could be interpreted as such. But chicklit--I can think of few female authors less vulnerable to that characterization than Amy Hempel.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 1:25 PM on July 30, 2007


Chicklit? Really? What qualifies these stories to be called chicklit, other than the fact that they're written by a woman? The charge of soullessness is more understandable; she does cultivate a flatness of affect that could be interpreted as such. But chicklit--I can think of few female authors less vulnerable to that characterization than Amy Hempel.

The reason I consider it chicklit is that it displays a very superficial and claustrophobic family-romance kind of sentimentality, which I always associate with young female writers, having heard lots of them produce the same repetitive work over and over. Not intending to be misogynistic--Lord knows male writers are often guilty of worse sins.

And the reason I think it's soulless is not the flatness of affect, which can be incredibly, gut-wrenchingly soulful when done right (Beckett's Molloy). It's that there doesn't seem to be a place in Amy Hempel's heart from which these stories come. It seems like she sits down, shrugs her shoulders, and tosses off another meaningless, emotionally uninvested piece of work. And that turns me off like plastic flowers.

But on Lutz, I agree with the above. I love the fact that his writing is very much physical and sensual and yet somehow disembodied; you can tell, too, that he spends care on the crafting of his words and phrases--something I can't fail to appreciate.
posted by nasreddin at 1:45 PM on July 30, 2007


I retract my agreement with "chicklit." PRB's right about that.
posted by rusty at 1:45 PM on July 30, 2007


But hey, de gustibus and all that.
posted by nasreddin at 1:57 PM on July 30, 2007


It's that there doesn't seem to be a place in Amy Hempel's heart from which these stories come.

Well, they don't come from her heart. They come from her mind. Also, I don't quite see how her writing can be "emotionally uninvested" at the same time as it "displays a very superficial and claustrophobic family-romance kind of sentimentality." It's possible, of course, for those two properties to coexist in a writer's work, but I'm not particularly persuaded in this case.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 2:06 PM on July 30, 2007


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