In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried Summary. Amy Hempel The story ends with the friend being buried in Los Angeles, in a well-known cemetery. “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried” is a short fiction story by author Amy Hempel. It was first published in TriQuarterly magazine in , reprinted in. Tell me things I won’t mind forgetting,” she said. “Make it useless stuff or skip it.” I began. I told her insects fly through rain, mi For the short story reader. Updated.

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“In the Cemetery where Al Jolson is Buried”

The narrator wants only to get away from this dying person and drive fast and go somewhere where there is palpable life.

There is nothing wrong with humor, but when that humor acts as a curtain behind which deeper feelings are hidden and kept from influencing decent behavior, then that humor can be harmful.

A debate over the merits of minimalism eventually ensued, which, using the words of Saltzman, can be framed thus: When I haven’t read this story for a while, this is where I think it ends. Instead, she seems fixated on grotesque images, like earthquakes and a man who dies of fright after seeing cdmetery mutilated arm. Amy Hempe l is one of my favorite writers. The stories are less successful when we have to piece together the events from driblets and hints.

She wants my life.

In fact, many doctors purposely distance themselves from their patients not because they are callused or cold, but because of the pain such temporary and ultimately tragic relationships can inflict. The other stories, too. Most of the stories in Reasons to Live open after a crisis to find the narrator standing, shell-shocked, amidst the rubble of her life.


The setting is the California coast hemlel in the Los Angeles area.

Just as the mother chimp continues to sign to her dead baby, the narrator continues her reliance on trivia after the friend dies.

Place Published New York. Originally published in TriQuarterly. Yet, setting Hempel apart from other practitioners of the form, such as Ernest Hemingwayis her femetery of humor. Al Jolson is buried in the cemetery where the dying girl will be buried; his blackface mask may symbolize the “show” that everyone, including the doctors, is putting on.

So where is the change in this story? Primary Source Reasons to Live. With each read, a new layer, a cemefery element, something very subtle is revealed. Newer Post Older Post Home. I think she goes for her walk and doesn’t come back. In the denial stage, the patient refuses to recognize reality and amyy as if the disease does not exist.

In this story, dreams and reality are weaved together just as true facts and made-up facts blend. All stories by decade. New story recommendations from this week. Hempel has compressed the narrative until every unnecessary and distracting detail has been squeezed out. And that when they pressed her, she said she was sorry, that it was really the project director.

There is a kind of writing that masks a lack of substance by itself posing as substance.

In the Cemetery where Al Jolson is Buried by Amy Hempel | Short Story Recommendation

Limbo seems like the only honest place to be in these stories. Author Biography Born December 14,in Chicago, Illinois, Amy Hempel moved to San Francisco as a teenager and attended several California colleges during an academic career that saw frequent interruptions.


The only fear that she admits to having is a fear of flying. This, in fact, becomes all she can do, the only way she can think. At its best it can, with economy and restraint, amplify perception and force meaning to leap from the page. Feeling guilty, the narrator ponders her reasons for waiting two months to come visit.

For the short story reader. Now she has overcome that weakness, but only to the degree that she can joke with her friend; a real meaningful connection between them never takes place. She is a minimalist writer who is often compared to Raymond Carver. Hempel credits Lish with having had a special influence on her work. Both women take a nap, but on awakening, the narrator says, “I have to go home. Other references made by the narrator in the story serve as a type of shorthand.

Most readers see her fictional realm as one of sadness and bittersweet consolation, a world of natural catastrophe, highway accidents, insanity, and death. Why not keep it light? The dying woman engages in trivial conversation and ghoulish jokes in dealing with her situation. The narrator recalls her one and only hospital visit to her best friend, who was dying.