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“In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried” originally appeared in TriQuarterly magazine in It was reprinted in Editors’ Choice: New American Stories. Annotations of “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried”. NC. Nicholas Cato. Updated 27 March Transcript. And fear Mirror Theory: Mirrors allow us to . “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.

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Most readers see her fictional realm iin one of sadness and bittersweet consolation, a world of natural catastrophe, highway te, insanity, and death. It causes her to stop talking even though there is no microphone to pick up what she is saying. Some of the one-page pieces in Reasons to Live are so truncated and incomplete they are interesting only as snapshots. Instead, she seems fixated on grotesque images, like earthquakes and a man who dies of fright after seeing his mutilated arm.

The dying friend, who has always been fearless, is afraid to die alone.

Storytelling provides options for different behaviors, and provides explanations. Inappropriate language is often a symptom of denial. Both women take a nap, but on awakening, the narrator says, “I have to go home.

A parable is a story that teaches a lesson. Feeling guilty, jlson narrator ponders her reasons for waiting two months to come visit. The parts left out are what give the story its emotional power.

She thinks of a story told to her by a friend who used to work in a mortuary. In the United Statesand particularly in California, places often come to be identified with their connections to the rich and famous. The camera made me self-conscious and I stopped.

Hempel is the author of two collections of short stories: Originally published in TriQuarterly. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list. But she was a mother, so I guess she had her reasons. The friend throws a fit upon realizing the narrator is leaving, yanking off her protective mask and running out of the room.


This pathetic weakness has kept her from comforting a person who is dying, a person who is supposedly her closest friend. But the narrator does not deepen her understanding.

Cemeteey has compressed the narrative until every unnecessary and distracting detail has been squeezed out. The substitution here of trivia for what is real renders the story the ideal minimalist marriage of form and content: Most of the stories in Reasons to Live open after a crisis to find the narrator standing, shell-shocked, amidst the rubble of her life.

They establish the emotional climates in which these characters survive. And that when they pressed her, she said she was sorry, that it was really the project director.

In the Cemetery where Al Jolson is Buried by Amy Hempel | Short Story Recommendation

Can sanity exist in a senseless world? For the short story reader. At its worst, minimalism is a kind of fraudulent tic that serves to hide a vacuum or defend against feeling. Hempel credits Lish whsre having cemeyery a special influence on her work. I told her insects fly through rain, missing every drop, never getting wet. This is a work to which young adults can readily relate. This, in fact, becomes all she can do, the only way she can think.

Cemetert a black comedy, an author will frequently make fun of things of a serious nature, such as illness, death, or disease. If there is only death, what difference does it make what we do in life? Our newest weekly issues. For Hempel, the answer is obvious.

They talk about inconsequential things, bantering, but then her friend says that there “is a real and present need here. There are no truths, there is no meaning to life, there is only death at the end, so what could possibly matter? The two drift off to sleep, but the narrator dreams her friend has decorated her house in festive streamers. She also finishes the story about the chimpanzee that her friend did not want to hear.


The narrator has not learned the language of grief and will not until she breaks through the barrier of postmodern detachment. There is a kind of writing that masks a lack of substance by itself posing as substance. Kubler-Ross found that many dying patients are comforted if someone sits and listens to their openly expressed fears and thoughts.

In this story, the narrator uses black humor in an effort to ease her fear of death. At its best it can, with economy and restraint, amplify perception and force meaning to leap from the page.

For questions or comments, contact us. By telling her story anonymously, the narrator is able to relate details that she might otherwise hesitate to reveal.

Still, small slips betray a vestigial identity, a wish not to blend, but to stand out: The narrator remembers how she and her friend played a word-game to ward off earthquakes.

“In the Cemetery where Al Jolson is Buried”

Limbo seems like the only honest place to be in these stories. While it is sometimes witty, the view of the world as absurd deprives the stories of emotional power.

She also names other contemporary short story nolson such as Mary Robison and Raymond Carver as having affected her style. The patient may then become angry, resenting others who enjoy good health and blaming doctors and relatives for their inability to help.

In its final form, the story also alludes to the friendship between Amy Hempel and the now deceased Jessica Wolfson, whom Hempel promised to write a story about and to whom the story is dedicated.