Writers Recommend: Caleb J Ross and The Collected Stories by Amy Hempel
Time to bring in a new series, freshen this blog up a bit, don't you think? Our latest is called Writers Recommend. And we'll be asking writers to, well, you know.. recommend things. Like the books that they've enjoyed. To you. Because who doesn't like being recommended new and interesting books, right?! Think of it as a PSA. Only it's more like a LSA -Literary Service Announcement. Your welcome.
Caleb J Ross Recommends The Collected Stories by Amy Hempel
My first thought when tasked
for recommendations was to wonder, does it have to be a book? Given those
literally limitless limitations there are so, so many wonderful things I could
recommend: Wondershowzen, The Video Game Years,
peanut butter (nope, there’s no missing hyperlink there; I just can’t recommend
peanut butter enough). But a book it is, so a book it shall be.
Every writer needs to read Amy
Hempel. Why? Read this sentence, picked at random by flipping through the pages
of The Collected Stories:
“Then you take a deep breath,
and slide your head under, and listen for the playfulness of your heart.” (pg
That sentence by itself sprouts
so many possibilities. As a writer, it’s a seed like this that I live for. The
juxtaposed imagery (playfulness vs. suicide), the rhythm of the syllables
(…listen for the playfulness…), the implied relationships (what is causing this
person to possibly kill herself?), the sentence packs in so much that I am
satisfied as a reader, willing to accept this single line as an entire story
while simultaneously eager to read the next sentence (in the case of this
story, “Tub,” it’s the last sentence of the story). Of course this is not to
denigrate the complete story that Hempel builds around this sentence—the story
is as phenomenal as that one sentence implies—but rather my appreciation of her
brevity is an appreciation of Hempel as a storyteller and an inspiration.
How could you not read this
sentence and immediately be compelled to write?
“Today, when a blind man walked
into the bank, we handed him along to the front of the line where he ordered a
BLT.” (pg 153, from “And Lead us Not into Penn Station”)