By David Holloway
Sing to It: New Stories is the first new work from Amy Hempel in a decade.
The first thing to notice in this collection is the variety of story lengths and tempos. Of the fifteen stories in Sing to It, ten are less than two pages long. Modest of plot, names and setting, the title story is only one page long. But “Cloudland,” the last in the collection—more a novella than a story—runs for sixty-two pages. The reader might imagine the briefer stories to be a sign of the times, a nod to flash fiction. But it’s more likely to be a choice of substance, not form, from a genius of succinct narrative. Throughout this collection, and especially in these shortest pieces, the haiku-like prose is condensed and concentrated. Intense and sparse, there is a bleached and stripped quality to Hempel’s writing. Her narrators, reluctant to yield up their secrets, force us to read between the lines. The reader is left, generally, with a lot of work to do.