Amy Hempel in The Paris Review

The Paris Review‘s ‘Art of Fiction’ interview with Amy Hempel isn’t new, but it’s a good one.  The whole thing, obviously, is worth a read, but I wanted to excerpt a bit I particularly liked here:


The term [minimalism] had meaning in the art world, but quickly became meaningless and pejorative when applied to literature. It came to denote what certain reviewers felt was missing in fiction—conventional plot or obvious emotion, for example. I had the sense that these reviewers who leaned on the term felt that certain ones of us were getting away with something. Some of these critics had a very limited sense of what story could be.


So what do you think a story is?


Years ago, Lenny Michaels was publishing some really fine short-short paragraph-long stories in good literary magazines. And I asked him if he took some heat from people who thought they weren’t really stories. He said, “You tell them what a story is. They don’t know.” This corroborated what I already suspected. It harkens back to the way you examine experience. Some writers have a more defined sense of cause and effect. Plot. My sense of life is more moment, moment, and moment. Looking back, they accrue and occur to you at a certain time and maybe you don’t know why, but you trust that they are coming back to you now for a reason. And you make a leap of faith. You trust you can put these moments together and create story.

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