Book Fight!

Tough love for literature


Episode 125: Spring of Success, Amy Hempel (“In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried”)

Amy Hempel’s first published story was also, apparently, the first short story she ever wrote, while in a fiction class run by Gordon Lish. It launched her on the literary scene, helped her get a book deal, and went on to become one of the most anthologized stories of the last few decades. You can read the story here, via Fictionaut (along with Hempel’s story about writing and publishing it). Or in her first collection, Reasons To Live.

On the episode we talk about Hempel’s moonshot to success, and why it bums Tom out. Is the only path to literary success to get in good with a famous mentor and also be immediately brilliant?

Here’s a picture of Hempel on the beach. Dogs are for closers!


In the second half of the show we talk about people who had big, early success, and how they followed it up (or, in some cases, didn’t). What lessons can we learn from these success stories?

Also: blurbs for supporters, and all the usual jibber jabber you’ve grown to love (or maybe tolerate?).

As always, stream the episode right here on the site, or visit us in the iTunes store, or wherever you usually get your podcasts. Thanks for listening!


Download Episode 125 (right-click, save-as)