‘In The Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried’ by Amy Hempel

I read this story every day for an entire summer. I am not sure anymore what I was going through then but I am happy to report this story still makes me cry every time I read it. I love the first line: “Tell me things I won’t mind forgetting,” she said, “Make it useless stuff or skip it.” I had not realized what an elegy could do until I read this piece. Hempel builds the story’s momentum by painstakingly bringing seemingly disparate details together. I also credit this with teaching me how much can be contained within a paragraph break.

First published in TriQuarterly Magazine, 1983, included in the collection Reasons To Live, 1985, Harper Collins. Read it online here

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