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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In The Cemetery Where Al Jolsen is Buried

Every now and then the first person narrator makes a comment that sounds more like a reflection from an author looking in on the story than the thoughts of a character looking out. Just as the mother chimp continues to sign to her dead cemetry, the narrator continues her reliance on trivia hwmpel the friend dies. Although Hempel lives and works in New York City, most of her stories resound with the sounds and images of California.

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In The Cemetery Where Al Jolsen is Buried by Amy Hempel

Two months, and how long is the drive? The story opens with the unnamed narrator visiting her friend, who is also unnamed, in a hospital near Hollywood, California, where the friend is dying, presumably of cancer. This, in fact, becomes all she can do, the only way she can think. Limbo seems like the cemefery honest place to be in these stories.


There are other misses here and there, gags that fall flat. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. I picked this short story up for free on audible.

This pathetic weakness has kept her from comforting a person who is dying, a person who is supposedly her closest friend. In fact, many doctors purposely distance themselves from their patients not because they are callused or cold, but because of the pain such temporary and ultimately tragic relationships can inflict.

She also finishes the story about the chimpanzee that her friend did not want to hear. And that when they pressed her, she ce,etery she was sorry, that it was really the project director.

Hats off to this author, and I would love to read more of her work. Retrieved December 31, from Encyclopedia. Print this article Print all entries for this topic Cite this article. Feeling guilty, the narrator ponders her reasons for waiting two months to come visit.

Did she know that Tammy Wynette had changed her tune? I am as cut off from meaning and completion as all of these crippled people. True, too, are the details of California overabundance: Her tales about insignificant things take on the aura of a performance.

Though the narrator seems aware of her fear of death, her fear prevents her from discussing the topic openly. I found the ending particularly abrupt. But the narrator does not deepen her understanding. Amy Hempel is an American short story writer, journalist, and university professor at Brooklyn College. Another form of rescue, and expiation of guilt, is in the “retelling” of these events, to which the narration draws attention by switching back and forth from the past to the present tense.


This unnamed woman is the friend whom the narrator visits in the hospital. 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. Rushing to fill that void, a reader must project his own meaning, or assume the presence of some meaning that eludes his grasp.

The best I can explain it is this—I have a friend who worked one summer in a mortuary. The danger is that 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. Return to Book Page.

Quotes from In The Cemetery W If there’s a better short story ever written, I’ve yet to read it. Hempel continually strives for, and sometimes manages to find, the poetry and raw humor in meaninglessness. The narrator wants only to get away from this dying person and drive fast and go somewhere where there is palpable life.

While paying a long-overdue visit to a dying friend in the hospital, the narrator muses about her shame and guilt in neglecting a friend in need.

For Hempel, the answer is obvious.