Amy Hempel’s award-winning The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel was chock-full of absorbing, somewhat dog-centric tales, with formal artistry and quirky characters.
Her latest collection proves that she has been doing something the past thirteen years. The main problem is the brevity and insignificance of what is on display here. Any selection of her earlier work is superior, and most of the pieces in this tiny collection are clearly flash fiction. There is only one full-length story, which delivers. There were several question marks popping into my head when I read the lesser ones. Remove all of the negative space in the book and you will end up with out 50 full-length pages.
One other thing I fail to understand is why the publisher thought it necessary to state on the cover: “By the Award-Winning author of The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel”.
In the end, this is a footnote-sized collection for Hempel completionists. I don’t think it’s my fault that I’m beginning to question my appreciation for an author I used to rank with Lorrie Moore and Joy Williams. Still, an influential author with a style all her own. I highly suggest her earlier collection over this one.