In the past, I’ve not been a fan of Short Stories. The ones I’ve read have left me unsatisfied with their brevity and made me yearn for more character development. When I found out my friend, Sally, was the editor, as well as author of one of the stories, of Strong Currents ~ a collection of short stories by writers from Hawaii, I just had to read the book. Since it was a collection of different writers, I found some stories a lot more enjoyable than others.
My pleasant reading experience with Strong Currents led me to seek out another collection of short stories. While browsing through Borders, I found The Collected Stories by Amy Hempel. Admittedly shallow, I was first attracted to the book cover. It had a photo of the author and a gorgeous golden retriever. How could I resist? I read the back cover where one of the lines said “No reader of great writing should be without it.” Sounded like a challenge to me. And because I’m too busy (lazy?) to take a photo of the book and upload it right now, click here for a view of the cover.
I’ve been carrying the book with me to numerous appointments these past couple of weeks and have really enjoyed the stories. It’s nice to finish a story or two in one sitting. Sometimes with novels, I have a bad tendency to skim when I get disinterested in the plot or can tell where the author is going but not with this book. Miss a sentence, miss a whole lot of the story. Every sentence is meticulously written without a stray word to be read. No skimming in this book, not that I’d want to since her topics are very interesting and so well written.
The collection of stories spans all her writings for the past 20 years. They are wonderfully told but that’s not to say the stories are happy ones. Mostly they are sad but always intriguing. The characters and animals (dogs) go through a lot of ordeals but they endure and survive. Sometimes. I’m so enthralled with this book, I think I’ll keep it with me for awhile so I can re-read some of the stories when ever I have some free time.
Since I enjoyed the book so much, I researched the author who is as fascinating as her stories. Or perhaps she IS the stories. Turns out the dog on the cover was her dog and was a Great Pyrenees/Golden Retriever mix. What a beauty of a dog. As a dog lover, one of my favorite passages in her story entitled “The Dog of The Marriage” is when she talks about Goodman the guide-dog, who after a year away from her, still remembers her:
Then I got a letter from Alice’s husband, Paul. He said they had been weeding in the garden, Goodman off-duty and retrieving a tossed ball. When Goodman found himself in the tomato patch, Paul wrote, he picked something up in his mouth and began yipping with excitement, tossing the thing into the air and running in circles to retrieve it. Paul told me Goodman had found one of the sachets I had made to keep away the deer; it was a packet of cheesecloth stuffed with my hair.
That is how I like to be known.
Now I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to read next so I’ll head over to Books on the Brain to get some ideas.