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Amy Hempel

Amy Hempel

Amy Hempel was Born in 1951. She grew up in Chicago and Denver before moving at sixteen to California, the inspiration for what would eventually become the extraordinary, unreal setting for her earliest fiction. She spent time in and around San Francisco until, over a two-year span, a series of significant events unfolded: her mother took her own life, her mother’s younger sister soon followed, she was injured in two massive auto accidents, and three years later, her best friend – a young woman who became well-known through Hempel’s most anthologized story, “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried,” died from leukemia. In 1975, Hempel moved to New York City, worked through a couple of publishing jobs, then located a nighttime writing class at Columbia with Gordon Lish, a writer and editor at Knopf whose demanding workshops (“Tactics of Fiction”) became legendary. Their classes together would mark the beginning of a long professional relationship, resulting in the 1985 publication of her first book, a short stories collection that was an immediate success. She wrote for Vanity Fair and The New York Times Magazine. She taught classes across the country. In 1990, Hempel brought out her second collection, At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom. Seven years later, confirming a pattern of taking a long time to write short stories, she returned with Tumble Home, a book that put her formal considerations – the packed sentence, the mutability of voice, the suggestive and highly condensed moment – to use in the title novella, her longest work to date. A collection of all her stories was published in 2006.

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