By Aaron Calvin
Amy Hempel brought her talents to the Great Writers, Great Readings program at Hofstra University on Wednesday. She is an anomaly in the world of contemporary literature. Not only does she write exclusively short stories, rather than the novel, but she's quite successful at it.
A recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship and Hobson Award, Hempel crafts stories that are memorable for their composition and direct style. Hempel cites her history in journalism as its source. "When reporting, you're made to get to the point right away," she said. "No one's going to read endlessly."
This syntactical structure is coupled with tightly wrapped lyricism. Hempel claims that she "brings a poet's concerns to fiction. I read it aloud. I'm always looking at sentence structure." This dual concern blends language to create fresh prose that draws in the reader.
The author has a few words for young writers. "Selectivity is one of the most important things to consider," she told the crowd. "You select what's most weighty, essential." She also revealed her lifestyle approach to writing. "One thing that really helps is having one thing [in your life] as important as the writing. I don't have a routine. I have a lot of things worth doing," she said.
When questioned on the current present place of the short story in today's literary world and the future of the story, Hempel only said: "People always want stories. Writers want to write them, readers want to read them. I don't see a shortage happening. The publishing industry suffers from many things, but lack of stories is not one of them."
The next "Great Writers, Great Readings" will feature Martha McPhee reading from her most recent novel, Dear Money, at 11:15 a.m. next Wednesday in the Guthart Cultural Center Theater.