Tumble Home Critical Essays

Amy Hempel

Tumble Home

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Amy Hempel is the much-praised author of two previous books of short fiction, REASONS TO LIVE: STORIES (1985) and AT THE GATES OF THE ANIMAL KINGDOM: STORIES (1990), tightly controlled, highly-compressed stories that happen swiftly: flash-flood-like fictions driven forth by situational and syntactical acrobats composed by a writer who is brave enough to embrace certain uncertainty in her quest to write a story of unpredictable and lasting power. Such masterful pint-sized dramas as “In a Tub,” “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried,” and “The Harvest,” are already considered to be classic examples of the never-before places that can be tapped into by a writer who dares to make the short-story form feel less contrived, and less predictable, made more energized by the actual sentences, the sheer blasts of language, one chooses to put forth onto the page. Here in her third assembly of short fiction, TUMBLE HOME, Hempel continues to explore and trample over new terrain, especially in what stands as her longest and fullest work to date, the title novella “Tumble Home,” an epistolary story that unfolds slowly, precisely, through a series of anecdotal reports/responses sent out into the world by a woman who is “a guest” staying at a “home” for the mentally/spiritually/emotionally estranged. Not unlike the characters from the seven other shorter fictions that flesh out this volume, the writer whose long letter makes up the title entry of this...

(The entire section is 402 words.)