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The Writing Life

Special Writing Life Conversation: Amy Hempel, Sing to It: New Stories and Sigrid Nunez, The Friend

Wednesday, October 23, 2019 - 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM | Members’ Room open to the public | $15 per person | registration required

In this one-of-a-kind event, two of today’s most original and acclaimed writers discuss their books, their craft, and their dogs.

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. Her new collection Sing to It, 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 also the author of The Dog of the Marriage, Tumble Home, At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom, and Reasons to Live, and the coeditor of Unleashed. Her stories have appeared in Harper’s, Vanity Fair, GQ, Tin House, the Harvard Review, and 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.

A New York Times bestseller, Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend won the 2018 National Book Award for Fiction. When a woman unexpectedly loses her lifelong best friend and mentor, she finds herself burdened with the unwanted dog he has left behind. Her own battle against grief is intensified by the mute suffering of the dog, a huge Great Dane traumatized by the inexplicable disappearance of its master, and by the threat of eviction: dogs are prohibited in her apartment building. While others worry that grief has made her a victim of magical thinking, the woman refuses to be separated from the dog except for brief periods of time. Isolated from the rest of the world, increasingly obsessed with the dog's care, determined to read its mind and fathom its heart, she comes dangerously close to unraveling. But while troubles abound, rich and surprising rewards lie in store for both of them. Elegiac and searching, The Friend is both a meditation on loss and a celebration of human-canine devotion.

Sigrid Nunez is the author of the novels Salvation City, The Last of Her Kind, A Feather on the Breath of God, and For Rouenna, among others. She is also the author of Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag. She has been the recipient of several awards, including a Whiting Award, the Rome Prize in Literature, and a Berlin Prize Fellowship.


The Writing Life events in 2019 are generously underwritten by Jenny Lawrence.


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