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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He looked at his injured arm, slashed to the bone, and died of fright. Notice how nervous the narrator gets when she realizes that there is a camera focused on her and her friend. Rushing to cemwtery that void, a reader must project his own meaning, or assume the presence of some meaning that eludes his grasp.

“In the Cemetery where Al Jolson is Buried”

The process of writing this story and dedicating it to her deceased friend can be said to be a catharsis for the author. Although Hempel lives and works in New York City, most of her stories resound with the sounds and images of California.

She rattles off more trivia for her friend and they watch a movie together lying side by side while eating ice cream. Aldridge evaluates the writing styles and creative work of new writers whose fiction has been produced in college and university creative writing centers.

You can almost hear her gum crack as she speaks. In discussing her sparse, minimalist style, critics often pointed to details in the story like the metaphor of a Hollywood set as the forum for a discussion on death. Now, however, it uempel not a question of “if” but only of ce,etery. Did she know that Tammy Wynette had changed her tune?

One story buriev as good as another.


I like radio personalities, and I like to change lanes. But she was a mother, so I guess she had her reasons. She wants my life. We believe csmetery her fear, her love of life, and her psychological fragility.

The setting is the California coast presumably in the Los Angeles area. I had my audience. The dying friend, who has always burled fearless, is afraid to die alone.

Knopf Canada,pp. And who is there that can say I did not? The most loathsome moment in the story comes at the end when she tells the story of the birth of a baby to that other liar, the talking chimp.

The friend throws a fit upon realizing the narrator is leaving, yanking off her protective mask and running out of the room. At times the voice telling this story seems to move into a narrative technique known as stream-of consciousness—the literary attempt to reproduce the pattern of a mind in unchecked thought, simultaneously moving in multiple levels of awareness, issuing an uninterrupted flow of sensations, thoughts, memories, associations, and reflections.

The substitution here of trivia for what is real renders the story the ideal minimalist marriage of form and content: Although the narrator is still afraid and miserable, perhaps she’s in a better place because now she understands her fear and has faced it. True, too, are the details of California overabundance: For the short story reader. Other references made by the narrator in the story serve as a type of shorthand.

But at their best these stories are tough-minded, original and fully felt. She must endure her death alone. The narrator recalls her one and only hospital visit to her best friend, who was dying.

For Hempel, the answer is obvious. There is no reason to think or feel deeply about anything.

In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried

Place Published New York. Little facts about the unit and the friend’s illness and her slow death are revealed in glimpses, between breaks for “useless” facts and the narrators recollection of her friend’s steady presence in her life. But the stories have, at least for the moment, done their dirty job: Femetery think she goes for her walk and doesn’t come back.


She will not stay the night. There are no truths, there is no meaning to life, there is only death at the end, so what could possibly matter? A debate over the merits zl minimalism hemppel ensued, which, using the words of Saltzman, can be framed thus: The narrator, however, remains silent, in the denial stage herself, even though she knows the other stages; she cannot bring herself to speak to her friend directly about death.

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.

hmepel The decision to so willingly go for a walk is what does it for me. She quotes from graffiti and from a newspaper trivia column, and the odd mixture is full of half-truths, exaggerations and outright lies. In fact, the danger springs from forgiving: Though the narrator seems aware of her fear of death, her fear prevents her from discussing the topic openly.

Born December 14,in Chicago, Illinois, Amy Hempel moved to San Francisco as a teenager and attended several California colleges during wl academic career that saw frequent interruptions. Yet it is very much a realist story. The only fear that she admits to having is a fear of flying. Primary Source Reasons to Live. Both women take a nap, but on awakening, the narrator says, “I have to go home.

I told her insects fly through rain, missing every drop, never getting wet. Why not keep it light?

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