Report by Sara Sands:
With her long, white hair framing her face, she looked exactly like the photo on the cover of The Collected Stories.
But her voice – serious but playful, frank but inviting – spoke to Amy Hempel’s power as a writer, reader, and overall master of her craft.
As the 25th Zale-Kimmerling Writer-in-Residence, Hempel read seven of her short and short-short stories to about 200 people on Monday. The reading ended with a brief Q&A session that provided yet another means for the audience of Tulane affiliates and community members to connect to the critically acclaimed writer.
Hempel began the night with a reading of “The Harvest,” a two-part story published in her second book At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom. In both her anecdotes before the story and the story itself, Hempel entertained, engaged and amused the attentive crowd.
By her third story, “Memoirs,” a one-sentence narrative that Hempel celebrates as her “shortest published story,” it seemed as though she was engaged in an intimate conversation, sharing her secrets with a group of friends.
In addition to “The Harvest” and “Memoirs,” Hempel read “The After Life,” which was published in Playboy; “Weekend,” a story from her third book Tumble Home; and three new works entitled “I Stay with Syd,” “The Correct Grip,” and “Sing to It.” The questions that followed her reading included queries on the challenges of teaching, the importance of setting in stories, and her favorite recent reads.
During the reception, Sarah Manthey, a senior and English major, commented on just how enjoyable the reading was. “She created a very intimate atmosphere even though there were a lot of people. It just felt very natural, like she was talking to the audience.”
As this year’s Zale-Kimmerling Writer-in-Residence, Hempel joins a growing list of stellar visiting writers, including recent guests Claire Messud, Elizabeth McCracken, and Curtis Sittenfeld.