In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is BuriedAmy Hempel Author BiographyPlot Born December 14, , in Chicago, Illinois, Amy Hempel moved to San. 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. Amy Hempel’s In The cemetery Where Al Jolsen is Buried is a moving story of a woman living through the death of her best friend from a terminal illness.

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She laughs, and I cling to the sound the way someone dangling above a ravine holds fast to the thrown rope. If there is only death, what difference does it make what we do in life? Judy Sobeloff is a writer and educator who has won several awards for her fiction. The prose is beautifully written and very moving, and very hdmpel shows the emotions she is going through without sappy sentimentality.

Despairing postmodernism rears up in this story and answers: Yet this is a kind of minimalism that robs us of nothing, that has room for the largest themes; the best of these stories have a compression that seems to capture it all. The narrator wants only to get away from this dying person and drive fast and go somewhere where there is palpable life. The friend throws a fit upon realizing the narrator is leaving, yanking hhe her protective mask and running out of the room.

Suntan oil and sand and surgical masks and oxygen tubes exist all in the same world, and part of the maturation process is understanding how this can be so.

In The Cemetery Where Al Jolsen is Buried by Amy Hempel

Cemeterh can almost hear her gum crack as she speaks. In the United Statesand particularly in California, places often come to be identified with their connections to the rich and famous. And who is there that can say that I did not?


But this brush with reality has, apparently, been too much for the narrator. And that when they pressed her, she said she was sorry, that it was really the project director. Jun 23, Elysa rated it it was amazing Shelves: Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list. The dying woman engages in trivial conversation and ghoulish jokes in dealing with her situation.

Alicia rated it it was amazing Aug 24, The narrator in this story has not been able to bring herself to visit her best friend in the hospital for two months; her fear has been stronger than her sense of decency. Iski rated it it was amazing Apr 11, Can sanity exist in a senseless world? The cool monologue is revealed for what it is—noise to drown out pain and fear.

After dinner I would shimmer with lust, buzz with heat, life, and stay up all night. Deals with themes of friendship, love, and grief.

This story pulls no punches, and the way Hempel combines voice and prose is absolutely outstanding to me. Now, however, it is not a question of “if” but only of “when.

Sometimes a vignette is just a vignette, a sketch a sketch.

The substitution here of trivia for what is real renders the story the ideal minimalist marriage of form and content: Underneath the banter, underneath the surgical masks, is grief laden with fear. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account.

A stunning meditation on mortality, storytelling, memory and trivia, Amy Hempel’s “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” shocks and delights at the same time. Cemtery has it taken her so long to make this visit?

In The Cemetery Where Al Jolsen is Buried

Al Jolson is buried in the cemetery where the dying girl will be buried; his blackface mask may symbolize the “show” that everyone, hemepl the doctors, is putting on. We’ll ask some follow-up questions. The stories are less successful when we have to piece together the events from driblets and hints.


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Vocabulary from “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” by Amy Hempel

If nature—and by extension, God—is false, then there really is nothing to believe in. In the final stage of acceptance, the patient may still be fearful and angry but is now prepared to the with peace and dignity. By telling her story anonymously, the narrator is able to relate details that she might otherwise hesitate to reveal. The narrator recalls her one and only hospital visit to her best friend, who was dying.

The details are perfectly rendered, quintessential California cliches; and yet they are also the truth. The danger is nempel we exist in a world that is precarious in its lack of real compassion and fueled by a fear of all that is not material. The narrator, however, remains silent, in the denial stage herself, cemetety though she knows the other stages; she cannot bring herself to speak to her friend directly about death. Blakely rated it really liked it Sep 02, And who is there that can say I did not?

Storytelling provides options for different behaviors, and provides explanations. Rhonda Williams rated it liked it Sep 28, Definitely worth a reread at some point.

Although Hempel lives and works in New York City, most of her stories resound with the sounds and images of California.