“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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They can take your breath away, so in tune are their resolutions with everything that has gone before. Did she know that Tammy Wynette had changed her tune? Marcus Welby, MD, a television show starring Robert Young, aired from towould be remembered by almost anyone who had been in college during the early cemetdry, as the narrator and her friend were.

The narrator knows it is meant for her, so that she can keep vigil. But at their best these stories are tough-minded, original and fully felt.

The other stories, too. The narrator recalls her one and only hospital visit to her best friend, who was dying.

“In the Cemetery where Al Jolson is Buried”

Although Hempel lives and works in New York City, most of her stories resound with the sounds and images of California. In the United Statesand particularly in California, places often come to be identified with their connections to the rich and famous.

That Paul Anka did it too, I said.

The narrator and her friend assume the role of actors, yet their situation is real. They talk about inconsequential things, bantering, but then her friend says that there “is a real and present need here.

She will not stay the night. Her tales about insignificant things take on the aura of a performance. Primary Source Reasons to Live. Because she is afraid. 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 tells a story of a story that was told to her—a tale now twice removed from reality—about a man who was frightened to death by the grossness of an injury he received in a car wreck. 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. Taboclaon, Donna Tartt, Lysley Tenorio.

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

I told her no one in America owned a tape recorder before Bing Crosby did. Indeed, the narrator views her friend as already dead “she was moved to the cemetery”so what is the point? However, her cemefery of death permeates her actions and thoughts while with her friend.

The narrator wants only to get away from this dying person and drive fast and go somewhere where there is palpable life.

Born December 14,in Chicago, Illinois, Amy Hempel moved to San Francisco as a teenager and attended several California colleges during an academic career that saw frequent interruptions. If there is only death, what difference does it make what we do in life? Hempel has compressed the narrative until every unnecessary and distracting detail has been squeezed out. This psychological stage, which is usually brief, is followed by the first true recognition of reality, and the patient then enters the stage of grief or depression, mourning the loss of his or her own life.

True, too, are the details of California overabundance: The narrator remembers how she and her friend played a word-game to ward off earthquakes. 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.

The danger that springs from this kind of thinking is obvious in this story and, for that matter, in much of the world it reflects. She also names other contemporary short story writers such as Mary Robison and Raymond Carver as having affected her style.


New story recommendations from this week. They take place in earthquake and landslide country, where stability is revealed to be a necessary delusion. The narrator must rescue herself by not staying to watch–or actively help–her friend die.

Summary The setting is the California coast presumably in the Los Angeles area. Can sanity exist in a senseless world? 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.

Modern Language Association http: She also finishes the story about the chimpanzee that her friend did not want to hear. The substitution here of trivia for what is real renders the story the ideal minimalist marriage of form and content: Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

Knopf Canada,pp. Her narrators are collectors of small, ironic tidbits, and Hempel seems to put forth the theory that the world is just a random assemblage of these trifles—some poignant, some beautiful, some amusing, but none deriving meaning from their arrangement.

I like radio personalities, and I like to change lanes.

In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried

There is nothing wrong with humor, but when that humor acts as a curtain behind which deeper feelings are hidden and kept from influencing decent behavior, then that humor can be harmful. The narrator has not learned the language of grief and will not until she breaks through the barrier of postmodern detachment.

These stories, more than half of which have never been published before, are conspicuously contemporary—both the abbreviated one-page sketches and the more extended pieces of five or six; feeling is always contained, never explicit.