In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried Summary. Amy Hempel The story ends with the friend being buried in Los Angeles, in a well-known cemetery. “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. Tell me things I won’t mind forgetting,” she said. “Make it useless stuff or skip it.” I began. I told her insects fly through rain, mi For the short story reader. Updated.

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Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list. Igoni Barrett, Belle Boggs, A.

Addressing the death in this fashion allows her to avoid acknowledging that her friend has died: Why has it taken her so long to make this visit? The narrator proceeds to tell her best friend some “useless” trivia. This psychological stage, which is usually brief, is followed by the jopson true recognition of reality, and the patient then enters the stage of grief or depression, mourning the loss of his or her own life. Retrieved December xl, from Encyclopedia. The danger is that we exist in a world that is precarious in its lack of real compassion and fueled by a fear of all that is not material.

This story was recommended by Manjushree Thapa. For the short story reader. There is such a great sense of uncertainty and flight, that throughout the jolsoh the reader wonders if the narrator will stay or go. Although Hempel lives and works in New York City, most of her stories resound with the sounds and images of California. Didion uses the agglomeration of concrete details bburied much the same end, but manages to infuse the facts themselves with a simultaneous wonder and irony, to convince the reader that everything she describes, from a hydraulic power plant to a waiter in Zipaquira, Colombia, is a singular phenomenon with its own body of hempeel.


I had my audience. Do not care about things or people or truths or lies, because it is all going to disappear someday and the caring will make cenetery painful. In doing this, Hempel evokes an airy mood that reminds of the jolzon of life against something as big as fear and the fear of loss and death. Hempel’s stories are often a glimpse into a moment of life. Place Published New York. Other references made by the narrator in the story serve as a type of shorthand. 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.

In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried

That when they asked her who did it on the desk, she signed back the name of the janitor. This, in fact, becomes all she can do, the only way she can think. She wants my life. An earthquake theme threads through the story as cemetrry one of the narrator’s fears along with flying and death. But at their best henpel stories are tough-minded, original and fully felt. She must endure her death alone.

For Hempel, the answer is obvious. The danger manifests itself as a detachment from the world of human connection. While it is sometimes witty, the view of the world as absurd deprives the stories of emotional power.

“In the Cemetery where Al Jolson is Buried”

In the former story, we suffer along with a woman visiting her best friend, who is dying of cancer, in a California hospital room. There is a kind of writing that masks a lack of substance by itself posing as substance. It is not so much that lies and truths are mixed in our lives, but that there are no real truths at all. And who is there that can say I did not? Little facts about the unit and the friend’s illness and her slow death are revealed in glimpses, between breaks for “useless” facts and the narrators recollection of her friend’s steady presence in her life.


The cool monologue is revealed for what it is—noise to drown out pain and fear.

Judy Sobeloff is a writer and educator who has won iolson awards for her fiction. In fact, the danger springs from forgiving: He looked at his injured arm, slashed to the bone, and died of fright. However, her fear of death permeates her actions and thoughts while with her friend. Newer Post Older Post Home.

In the Cemetery where Al Jolson is Buried by Amy Hempel | Short Story Recommendation

The other stories, too. Alternately, the narrator uses humor as a form of denial, like when she reads an item from the newspaper about a man who robs a bank with a chicken.

She quotes from graffiti and from a newspaper trivia column, and the odd mixture is full of half-truths, exaggerations and outright lies.

She also finishes the story about the chimpanzee that her friend did not want to hear. Primary Source Reasons to Live. Hempel credits Lish with having had a special influence on her work. Suntan oil and sand and surgical masks and oxygen tubes exist all in the same world, buride part of the maturation process is understanding how this can be so.

Amy Hempe l is one of my favorite writers. They establish the emotional climates in which these characters survive. Because she is afraid. Eskimos do not need refrigerators to keep their food from freezing; it is childish to believe that all Eskimos live in igloos in a permanently frozen wasteland.

Still, small slips betray a vestigial identity, a wish not to blend, but to stand out: The dying woman engages in trivial conversation and ghoulish jokes in dealing with her situation. The narrator recalls her one and only hospital visit to her best friend, who was dying.