The Collected Stories

The Collected Stories


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Amy Hempel is a master of the short story. This celebrated volume gathers together her complete work — four short collections of stunning stories about marriages, minor disasters, and moments of revelation.

With her inimitable compassion and wit, Hempel introduces characters who make choices that seem inevitable, and whose longings and misgivings evoke eternal human experience.

For readers who have known Hempel's work for decades and for those who are just discovering her, this indispensable volume contains all the stories in Reasons to Live, At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom, Tumble Home, and The Dog of the Marriage. No reader of great writing should be without it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743289467
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 05/09/2006
Pages: 432
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.31(d)

About the Author

Amy Hempel is the author of Sing to It, The Dog of the Marriage, Tumble Home, At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom, Reasons to Live, and the coeditor of Unleashed. Her stories have appeared in Harper’s, Vanity Fair, GQ, Tin House, The Harvard Review, The Quarterly, and have been widely anthologized, including Best American Short Stories and The Best Nonrequired Reading. She teaches in the Graduate Writing Program at Bennington College, and at Stony Brook Southampton. She lives near New York City.

Read an Excerpt


The house next door was rented for the summer to a couple who swore at missed croquet shots. Their music at night was loud, and I liked it; it was not music I knew. Mornings, I picked up the empties they had lobbed across the hedge, Coronas with the limes wedged inside, and pitched them back over. We had not introduced ourselves these three months.

Between our houses a tall privet hedge is backed by white pine for privacy in winter. The day I heard the voice of a woman not the wife, I went out back to a spot more heavily planted but with a break I could just see through. Now it was the man who was talking, or trying to — he started to say things he could not seem to finish. I watched the woman do something memorable to him with her mouth. Then the man pulled her up from where she had been kneeling. He said, "Maybe you're just hungry. Maybe we should get you something to eat."

The woman had a nimble laugh.

The man said, "Paris is where you and I should go."

The woman asked what was wrong with here. She said, "I like a beach town."

I wanted to phone the wife's office in the city and hear what she would sound like if she answered. I had no fellow feeling; all she had ever said to me was couldn't I mow my lawn later in the day. It was noon when she asked. I told her the village bylaws disallow mowing before seven-thirty, and that I had waited until nine. A gardener, hired by my neighbor, cared for their yard. But still I was sure they were neglecting my neighbor's orchids. All summer long I had watched for the renters to leave the house together so that I could let myself in with the key from the shelf in the shed and test the soil and water the orchids.

The woman who did not want to go to Paris said that she had to leave. "But I don't want you to leave," the man said, and she said, "Think of the kiss at the door."

Nobody thinks about the way sound carries across water. Even the water in a swimming pool. A week later, when her husband was away, the wife had friends to lunch by the pool. I didn't have to hide to listen; I was in view if they had cared to look, pulling weeds in the raspberry canes.

The women told the wife it was an opportunity for her. They said, "Fair is fair," and to do those things she might not otherwise have done. "No regrets," they said, "if you are even the type of person who is given to regret, if you even have that type of wistful temperament to begin with."

The women said, "We are not unintelligent; we just let passion prevail." They said, "Who would deny that we have all had these feelings?"

The women told the wife she would not feel this way forever. "You will feel worse, however, before you feel better, and that is just the way it always is."

The women advised long walks. They told the wife to watch the sun rise and set, to look for solace in the natural world, though they admitted there was no comfort to be found in the world and they would all be fools to expect it.

The weekend the couple next door had moved in — their rental began on Memorial Day — I heard them place a bet on the moon. She said waxing, he said waning. Days later, the moon nearly full in the night sky, I listened for the woman to tell her husband she had won, knowing they had not named the terms of the bet, and that the woman next door would collect nothing.

The Dog of the Marriage copyright © 2005 by Amy Hempel

Table of Contents

On Amy Hempelxi
Reasons to Live
In a Tub3
Tonight Is a Favor to Holly5
Celia Is Back13
Nashville Gone to Ashes17
San Francisco27
In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried29
Beg, Sl Tog, Inc, Cont, Rep41
Pool Night57
Three Popes Walk into a Bar63
The Man in Bogota73
When It's Human Instead of When It's Dog75
Why I'm Here81
Breathing Jesus85
Today Will Be a Quiet Day89
At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom
Daylight Come101
The Harvest103
The Most Girl Part of You111
Rapture of the Deep123
Du Jour129
The Day I Had Everything139
To Those of You Who Missed Your Connecting Flights Out of O'Hare149
And Lead Us Not into Penn Station153
In the Animal Shelter157
At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom159
The Lady Will Have the Slug Louie169
Under No Moon171
The Center177
Tom-Rock Through the Eels181
The Rest of God191
Tumble Home
Church Cancels Cow201
The Children's Party203
The Annex223
The New Lodger229
Tumble Home233
The Dog of the Marriage
Beach Town305
Jesus Is Waiting309
The Uninvited317
Reference #388475848-5337
What Were the White Things?343
The Dog of the Marriage347
The Afterlife367

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The Collected Stories 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
gwendolyndawson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A collection of stark, concise short stories (and one novella). These stories are grim and heartbreaking without being maudlin. The ache is palpable as is the redemption. Truly unique and moving.
pbirch01 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hempel is an excellent story teller and this collection of short stories reflects what the Prologue says when it states "Its all about sentences". Each story of Hempel's has something in the background, that although not explicitly stated, it is present. Maybe it is something from the past or maybe it is some sort of foreshadowing, either way the story feels more real because of the lack of descriptions which makes the reader more engaged in the story. I enjoyed picking up this book at random and reading a few stories at a time. My only complaint is that the majority of the stories are told from the first person and after a while it seems as if the author is telling various parts of her life. Still, her writing style is efficient and nuanced which benefits all who read her.
rossryanross on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Amy Hempel's stories are almost always profoundly moving and insightful. She writes from an assured, wise point of view that gives her stories a calm, almost hypnotic power. And Hempel delves into subjects that, in theory, shouldn't produce any literary or philosophical weight, but somehow she makes even the driest, most mundane topics beautiful and interesting. For that reason, her Collected Stories is one of my favorite books.
SunflowerRae on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beautiful writing but slightly depressing.
Ix0x0L on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very concise short stories. Great for a short attention span.
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sarbc More than 1 year ago
Amazing that stories so short can be so moving.
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Alice10 More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Ms. Hempel has an extraordinary and strong voice. I recommend it wholeheartedly.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Amy Hempel is simply the best short story writer alive, and one of the best of all time--this from a guy who reads everything he can get his hands on. Buy the book, but skip the introduction--instead, if you want an idea of what Hempel is all about, read Chuck Palahniuk's essay 'Not Chasing Amy' in *Stranger Than Fiction.* Trust me, you will love her.