There is a reason why this story is one of the most anthologized ever, why it’s taught in tons of writing classes, why it has stunned friends of mine who don’t even like to read that much. It’s because it’s a masterpiece. From its opening line, it has some of the most perfect sentences. I can’t think of a work of art that better expresses what it’s like to be cowardly when faced with another’s death and to fail to be there when someone needs you. To avoid dealing with your emotions until it’s too late.
Apparently this was the first short story Amy Hempel wrote, which is even more incredible. She was taking Gordon Lish’s class and the story was a response to the first assignment. The assignment was to write your worst secret, the thing you would never live down. The thing that dismantled your own sense of yourself.
May is national short story month. The Bushwick Review will feature a short story every day on this tumblr. It will be by a living writer.