Amy Hempel, "Sing to It" in conversation with Jill Ciment, "The Body in Question"
We are thrilled to welcome Amy Hempel and Jill Ciment to discuss their new books!
Amy Hempel, Sing to It
“All the tawdry details I’m dying for are in these stories, but they’re given out like old sweaters—without shame, without guile. Amy Hempel is the writer who makes me feel most affiliated with other humans; we are all living this way—hiding, alone, obsessed—and that’s ok.” —Miranda July
From legendary writer Amy Hempel, one of the most celebrated and original voices in American short fiction: a ravishing, sometimes heartbreaking new story collection—her first in over a decade.
Amy Hempel is a master of the short story. A multiple award winner, Hempel is highly regarded among writers, reviewers, and readers of contemporary fiction. This new collection, her first since her Collected Stories published more than a decade ago, is a literary event.
These fifteen exquisitely honed stories reveal Hempel at her most compassionate and spirited, as she introduces characters, lonely and adrift, searching for connection. In “A Full-Service Shelter,” a volunteer at a dog shelter tirelessly, devotedly cares for dogs on a list to be euthanized. In “Greed,” a spurned wife examines her husband’s affair with a glamorous, older married woman. And in “Cloudland,” the longest story in the collection, a woman reckons with the choice she made as a teenager to give up her newborn infant. Quietly dazzling, these stories are replete with moments of revelation and transcendence and with Hempel’s singular, startling, inimitable sentences.
Amy Hempel is the author of Sing to It, The Dog of the Marriage, Tumble Home, At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom, Reasons to Live, and the coeditor of Unleashed. Her stories have appeared in Harper’s, Vanity Fair, GQ, Tin House, The Harvard Review, The Quarterly, and have been widely anthologized, including Best American Short Stories and The Best Nonrequired Reading. She teaches in the Graduate Writing Program at Bennington College, and at Stony Brook Southampton. She lives near New York City.
Jill Ciment, The Body in Question
From the author of Heroic Measures ("Brave, generous, nearly perfect"--L.A. Times), Act of God, and (with Amy Hempel), The Hand That Feeds You ("An unnerving, elegant page-turner"--Vanity Fair), a spare, masterful novel about a shocking murder trial, a sequestered jury, and an affair between two of the jurors--the woman, in free fall in her life and marriage to a much older man.
The place: central Florida. The situation: a sensational murder trial involving a rich, white teenage girl--a twin--on trial for the horrific murder of her toddler brother, and the sequestered jury deciding her fate. The setting: a utilitarian marble cube of a courthouse, more Soviet than Le Corbusier; and the court-appointed motel off the interstate.
Two of the jurors: Hannah, a 52 year-old former Rolling Stone, Interview Magazine photographer of rock stars and socialites (she switched to photographing animals when she realized she looked at people "as a species" rather than as individuals) and Graham, a 41 year-old anatomy professor, sequestered (she, Juror C-2; he, F-17), holed up at the Econo-Lodge off I-75.
As the shocking and numbing details of the crime and its surrounding facts are revealed during a string of days and seemingly endless court hours, the nights, playing out in a series of court-financed meals (Outback Steak House; Red Lobster; Domino's pizza delivery), Hannah and Graham fall into a furtive affair, keeping their oath, as jurors, never to discuss the trial. During deliberations the lovers learn they are on opposing sides of the case and realize that their fellow jurors are wise to their affair.
After the trial's end, as Hannah returns home to her much older, now, suddenly, frail husband (they married when she was 24; he, 58) an exploding media fury involving the case catches them all up in a frenzy of public outrage at a jury that seems to have convicted the wrong twin, and a judge who has received an anonymous handwritten letter about a series of sexual encounters ("I feel it is my duty as a juror and a citizen to report that two of my fellow jurors had sexual contact on more than seven occasions during our nights at the motel..."), calling into question their respective verdicts, and announcing she is releasing the jurors' names to the media. Hannah's "one last dalliance before she is too old" takes on profoundly personal and moral consequences, as the novel moves to its affecting, powerful and surprising conclusion.
Jill Ciment was born in Montreal, Canada. She has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards, among them a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, two New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships, the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, and a Guggenheim fellowship. Ciment is a professor at the University of Florida. She lives in Gainesville, Florida, and Brooklyn, New York.
If you're unable to attend the event and would like a signed copy of Sing to It and/or The Body in Question, please purchase the "Signed" version below.