"Because grief unites us,
like the locked antlers of moose
who die on their knees in pairs."
-- William Mathews
This melancholy quotation opens Amy Hempel's newest collection of short stories set in California where Hempel spent much of her childhood. Each story deals with grief, loss, and pain -- with Hempel's experiences as a struggling New York writer, and the death of several family members providing much of the material for these stories -- but this isn't a depressing book. As the title suggests, the focus is on recovery and hope rather than resignation and loss. Rather than weepy melodrama, each tale is delivered with a sharp caustic wit and is loaded with dark black humor.
This collection grew out of a fiction workshop Hempel attended at Columbia University in 1982.
Chuck Palahniuk is a confessed fan, and you easily can see the influence Hempel has had on his work.
Amy Hempel lives in New York, her other works include another collection of short stories titled At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom, Tumble Home, and The Dog of the Marriage
Reasons to Live was released in 1985 by HarperPerennial.
The stories included in this collection are:
- In a Tub
- Tonight is a Favor for Holly
- Celia is Back
- Nashville Gone to Ashes
- San Fransisco (originally appeared in Harpers)
- In the Cemetary Where Al Jolson is Burried (originally apeared in TriQuarterly)
- Be, Sl Tog, Inc, Cont, Rep
- Going (originally appeared in Vanity Fair)
- Pool Night
- Three Popes Walk Into a Bar
- The Man in Bogota
- When It's Human Instead of When It's Dog
- Why I'm Here (originally appeared in Vanity Fair)
- Breathing Jesus
- Today Will Be a Quiet Day