Wednesday, February 24, 2010

In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried by Amy Hempel

I had to read this story twice because the first time I read it I was just so concerned with figuring out the plot. I couldn't tell if they were at first getting some cosmetic operation because of the mask references and why it took so long for her to get to a "glamorous place", then right after that it was clear that the friend was ill, but then I wasn't sure if the narrator was as well ill. There were times when I was wondering if this was taking place after they died, my mind definitely was a little out there on this piece so I had to re-read it.
When I re-read the story, it was very obvious what was going on; a friend that is visiting her dying best friend, and it took almost two months for her to visit, very very sad.
However, there was so much that was striking to me about this story. For one, the way Hempel starts the story with the dying best friend asking to hear about things that she won't mind forgetting. That really placed me in the ill friend's place, because instantly I thought of who would want to hear about things that they wouldn't mind forgetting and of course someone who knows they are going to forget everything important to them soon, devastating, but then the friend starts telling her things that are unimportant and that really is a nice contrast to the very sad reality of the story. I thought this two contrasting tones was a very effective technique.
I also really appreciated the subtlety of the way the Hempel gives information. "She introduces me to a nurse as the Best Friend" (Hempel 100) this is where I realized that the nurse has heard stories of the best friend, but meeting her for the first time. Very interesting.
There is so much more in this that I thought was striking, and there is so many craft elements that I would hope to incorporate in my writing some day.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed this story as well for similar reasons but didn't seems to see it as sad as you did, an interesting contrast. I also didn't realize until you pointed it out that the reason she wanted to hear things to easily forget was because she was ill. I realized she was dying but I didn't tie the two together, well done!


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