The Dog of the Marriage by Amy Hempel

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The Dog of the Marriage by Amy Hempel

Mistress of Minimalism examines relationships of all kinds, including the inter-dog variety

Amy Hempel’s latest endeavor resists categorization; it’s part short stories, part prose poetry and part letter to the Parking Violations Bureau of New York City. The Dog of the Marriage is predictable only in its nuanced examination of relationships—between strangers, lovers, spouses and, yes, even dogs.

In the title piece, Hempel writes, “Dreams: the place most of us get what we need.” The author’s willingness to make such absolute statements about people, to posit what it is we have in common, makes her writing difficult to deem “fiction.” This fearlessness of style isn’t surprising in light of the subjects she tackles, ranging from failed marriages and sexual violence to ghosts.

Despite the bleak material, Hempel’s insight and light touch never allow this collection to get mired. Rather, The Dog of the Marriage proceeds with as much alacrity as its “Jesus Is Waiting” heroine, a woman who considers it “a point of pride not to stop when tired.”

It’s tempting to try and locate the well-respected author in such descriptions, but in the end you merely learn a bit more about yourself from these pages. After some reflection, call them “portraits.”

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