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The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel Hardcover – May 9, 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* With the publication of her first book of short stories, Reasons to Live (1985), Hempel earned a strong position in the vanguard of the minimalist school of fiction writing, in vogue at that time and especially significant in the short story genre. Her three succeeding collections of stories, the most recent being The Dog of the Marriage (2005), maintained her high stature as a short story writer. She generally continued to compose tightly hewn stories despite the fact that minimalism as a stylistic movement was shrinking around her like a drying riverbed. The stories from her previous collections are gathered here into a single volume, and her achievement in the form is now boldly obvious. She has never imitated, never been just a somewhat anonymous member of a pack of talented storywriters. She is an original, having found--and kept--her unique way of expressing her not so much cut-and-dried as deeply penetrating vision. As the 70-page story "Tumble Home" testifies, Hempel can write longer than usual for her, and certainly that interior monologue by a patient in a mental institution is arresting in its pristine tracing of a pattern of thought. Nevertheless, she is at her best by far in the short, highly imagistic, sparely plotted, stiletto-keen slice of narrative that in her hands glistens in its sheerness, and for that she has made short story history. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (May 9, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743289463
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743289467
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #502,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am embarrassed to say that before I read Amy Hempel's "The Collected Stories", I did not know anything about her. If Hempel's writing is considered "minimalist", she certainly manages to pack a wallop in the words she carefully uses. I would not classify Hempel's writing as "minimalist"; her view of the world from the inside out is powerful and intriguing. The stories frequently deal with grief and sadness. Each word is carefully chosen. The emotions that Hempel's use of language elicits are palpable and powerful: they often seem to strike a cord of unexpected and frightening familiarity. The book is expansive and the stories in this collection grow on you. To have all of these stories in one volume, the reader has the opportunity to witness the evolution and growth of a writer. Hempel's stories seem to grow sadder as she matures as a writer; but, at the same time they flower ever so beautifully as her perception deepens.
As I was reading this collection I found myself anxious to return home from work so I can sneak another peek at one of these delicious tales. I am delighted to have found this treasure. I am dazzled by Hempel's art. If you buy this collection, you will not be disappointed.
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Format: Hardcover
Amy Hempel's short stories are short -- not because she doesn't have much to say, but rather she can say much in fewer words and with more impact. As I read through this collection, I became more aware of how she chooses her words and how deeply powerful they become. The simplicity and power of her stories are in their directness, and in re-reading several of them I was struck once again by a sense of wonder. Not all of them are sweet, but they will strike you in one way or another.
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Format: Hardcover
Amy Hempel has published four volumnes of short stories which are collected together here for the first time. Written over the past twenty years, the actual stories are quite brief (three pages for many and the novella's would be short stories by any other writer). She is inside the head of her narrators in a stream of consciousness style that is short on plot and long on exploration of feelings. Given that "At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom" (1990) is out of print and the other three paperbacks would cost $35 at Amazon, "The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel" is a bargin at $17. And the stories stay with you long after you read them.
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Format: Paperback
I feel about this book as I do about so much fiction of the post-Gordon Lish era--I know it`s my fault I`m not moved or even involved, I`m the unsophisticated one, I`m too shallow, and none of that changes the fact that I don`t like this sort of thing. I am overwhelmed and moved by Carver, yet over and over I read acclaimed stories by his disciples or those writers, like Hempel, he influenced, and I am left bored and annoyed. It is significant that Rick Moody, in his intro, mentions that he never did some of the macho things Ernest Hemingway talks about in his stories--that`s the standard for this era`s writers and readers, are their own experiences being reflected back at them, in ways they can agree with? Hempel`s stories are invariably about sour moments and sadness we can all experience, but the persistent feeling is of inertia. This book is like a gallery of photos about the same subjext, a solitary woman looking at the sunset. I prefer writers who don`t shy away from saying more than `This sucks.`
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Short and Long of Amy Hempel
Fifty stories comprise this collection prefaced by a generous essay. By length most could be classified as shorter short stories. Two of them are a sentence long. The collection is the output of a writer acclaimed by her peers and institutions that bestow awards on exemplary authors

Ms. Hempel has been tagged as a minimalistic writer. Not every fictionalist so categorized accepts the designation. Raymond Carver didn't. Ms. Hempel doesn't seem to mind though she may not agree with her inclusion. I believe minimalism is about presentation, a collection of characteristics: clipped dialogue, scant physical description, little or no transitions, a somewhat staccato rhythm to the word flow. A literary scholar or critic can list more. You would think their lack would cripple a story. Ms. Hempel proves otherwise. She has the incomparable gift every first class author has, the ability to create intriguing situations.

Much of her fiction is drawn from her life. She said so in a Paris Review interview. Her mother's suicide, her best friend's terminal disease, her automobile accident, her affection for dogs and cats- undergo "a sea change into something rich and strange".
There are what I consider two difficulties with her stories. One is an unavoidable consequence for every writer.. Those topical references here and there -- names, products, events -- recognizable to those of the generations approximate to them lose familiarity with time. From "And Lead Us Not into Pen Station" in which a wax head is shown to a bartender:"'Auction at the old wax museum,' the man says. 'All anyone wanted was Elvis Presley and Martin Luther King. I picked up Richard Speck here for next to nothing.
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