Saturday, April 03, 2010


It took me a while to get into Hempel's book. The early stories in the collection jangle and jar with the zap of Zen koans. I found them too spare, too sudden, and I re-read a lot out of frustrated puzzlement. Then the frustration became admiration and I dug this crazy world of depressives, obsessed artists, survivors of shattered relationships. Images and settings and particulars recur: dogs, beaches, cemeteries, road trips, changes of scenery, rednecks, booze. And speaking of dogs: if you love them or love dog people, then you will love several stories in this collection. I adored one in particular about people who raise seeing eye-dogs from puppyhood to one year, only to give them up for training and new masters with greater needs. A tear-jerker indeed. Great, distinctive stories.

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