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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Butied played us to the nurses down the hall in Intensive Care. But, in fact, she does come back. The narrator reminisces specific moments of their friendship, each revealing something more about the narrator’s fears and their relationship. Only because we suffer with her can we come to understand and pardon the tactics she uses to avoid feeling pain, but we do come to understand.

“In the Cemetery where Al Jolson is Buried”

But the narrator does not deepen her understanding. At its best it can, with economy and restraint, amplify perception and force meaning to leap from the page.

Notice how nervous the narrator gets when she realizes that there is a camera focused on her and her friend. The parts left out are what give the story its emotional power. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. Now, however, it is not a question of “if” but only of “when. The stories are less successful when we have to piece together the events from driblets and hints.

All stories by decade. Some of the one-page pieces in Reasons to Live are so truncated and incomplete they are interesting only as snapshots. But she was a jopson, so I guess she had her reasons. They achieve their former closeness for a moment when the narrator feels sleepy from the injection given to jklson friend. In most of the stories that make up this first collection [Reasons to Live], Amy Hempel has succeeded in revealing both the substance and intelligence beneath the surface of a spare, elliptical prose.


Although Hempel lives and works in New York City, most of her stories resound with amg sounds and images of Amt. It causes her to stop talking even though there is no microphone to pick up what she is saying. I told her no one in America owned a tape recorder before Bing Crosby did. The jempel stories, too. You can almost hear her gum crack as she speaks.

They establish the emotional climates in which these characters survive. 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. The friends confront imminent death and loss in the tone that has characterized their relationship since college days, which seem not to be very far behind them.

The doctor enters the hospital room and the friend flirts with him. When I haven’t read this story for a while, this is where I think it ends.

She says she doesn’t understand the giddyness of her ill friend. Aldridge evaluates the writing styles and creative work of new writers whose fiction has been produced in college and university creative writing centers. With each read, a new layer, a new element, something very subtle is revealed.

Modern Language Association http: There is a kind of writing that masks a lack of substance by itself posing as substance. The narrator remembers how she and her friend played a word-game to ward off earthquakes.

Two months, and how long is the drive? Hempel credits Lish with having had a special influence on her work. Her narrators are collectors of small, ironic tidbits, and Hempel seems to put forth the theory that the world is just a random assemblage of these trifles—some poignant, some beautiful, some amusing, but none deriving meaning from their arrangement. I could not even offer to bkried back. Why has it taken her so long to make this visit?

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In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried |

I had my audience. At its most reductive or repetitive, it can induce corresponding states of boredom or trance. Like the mother chimp who is trained to sign, the narrator and her friend train themselves to speak only in trivia—like signing, an alternate and artificial form of language—to speak only about things that do not matter. This psychological stage, which is usually brief, is followed by the first true recognition of reality, and the patient then enters the stage of grief or depression, mourning the loss of his or her own life.


We believe in her fear, her love of life, and her psychological fragility. This pathetic weakness has kept her from comforting a person who is dying, jjolson person who is supposedly her closest friend. It takes me fifty-five minutes to drive one way, and I wish the commute were longer. She quotes from graffiti and from a newspaper trivia column, and the odd mixture is full of half-truths, exaggerations burued outright lies. In the former story, we suffer along with a woman visiting her best friend, who is dying of cancer, in a California hospital room.

Was Bing Crosby the first American to own a tape recorder? The friend throws a fit upon realizing the narrator is leaving, yanking off her protective mask and running out of the room. The truth of this trivia is not important because truth is merely an irrelevant abstraction in the face of death. 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. She must endure her hemppel alone.

In a black comedy, an author will frequently make fun of things of a serious nature, such as illness, death, or disease. Commentary This story cemeetry an intriguing, frank, and pithy rendering of complex reactions to the dying of loved ones.