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Amy Hempel has a beautiful, yet sometimes confusing, style of writing.  Her story, “In The Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” is heart wrenching.  From the beginning with the line, “Tell me things I won’t mind forgetting,” you instantly get this feeling of dread.  But, just like her other works like “Nashville Gone to Ashes” and “The Dog of the Marriage,” Hempel sort of veers the reader away into the head of the narrator.  The story goes from that gloomy first line, to listing off random facts that seem to have nothing to do with anything.  It really puts you in the head of the narrator and places you right in the center of the story.  What she feels, you feel.  This is also reinforced by writing the story in first person.  She clearly wants to get a certain tone across to the reader.

While this is a beautiful style of writing, like I mentioned before, it’s sometimes hella confusing.  One moment you are right with the narrator’s dying friend, and the next she’s talking about airplane flights and sitting on the beach.  This isn’t a criticism of her writing, in fact it’s beautiful.  The story is about the death of a friend and this erratic back and forth mirrors the emotions one feels in such a time.  Whether or not that is her intention, or she just writes like this all the time, I don’t know.  But it works and I love it.  I remember reading this story in intro to creative writing and I don’t think I really appreciated it until now.  How the story ends, with the story about the chimp, is incredible.  It is a beautiful way to describe the grief Hempel wants to get across without flat out saying, “I was sad.”  It’s a wonderful and depressing story.

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