Short Story Sunday: The Harvest, Amy Hempel
The Harvest, Amy Hempel
It’s always nice to know someone is reading the blog, especially when I find out he’s passionate about the short story! Recently, I got an email from Mark, who passed on the name of a short story I might like—Amy Hempel’s “The Harvest.”
He couldn’t have been more right.
As a writer, I’ve always been fascinated by the story behind the story—what inspired this particular piece? I consider each of my fictions to be a slice of my life: it was always inspired by something real. What inspired this other writer’s work?
What makes this piece interesting—and a new favorite—for me is its self-awareness; here is a brilliant piece about what goes on in the head when writing fiction. Which I suppose is still true, even though it happened quite by accident, as she noted in this June 2003 interview with The Paris Review (you can read the full interview here) https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/227/amy-hempel-the-art-of-fiction-no-176-amy-hempel
“Paul Winner (Interviewer): In the form of your story “The Harvest” that was published you wrote about the motorcycle accident that left you hospitalized; you placed the “true” account alongside the fictional account.
Amy Hempel: Yes. In the case of “The Harvest,” I wrote the first part as fiction. Then in the aftermath I wondered why, in fact, I’d changed what actually happened when writing it as a story. A few weeks later I gave Gordon, who was then editor of The Quarterly, an addendum that he published in the “Letters to the Editor” section. It deconstructed the story, pointed to everything I had changed from the way it really happened, and why. When it came time to put the collection together, we simply felt they belonged together. Now—I could have written a third version about everything I had modified in the “real” version. Point being, you can’t help mythologizing your own experience. “ 
Her last point, about “mythologizing your own experience,” is what strikes me; “The Harvest” is this indeed: for me, it’s looking at the inner workings of a clock, and that is endlessly fascinating.
“The Harvest” appears in Hempel’s collection At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom, but it has been reprinted in many places. You can read it online here: http://www.pifmagazine.com/1998/09/the-harvest/
 Paul Winner, “Amy Hempel, The Art of Fiction No. 176,” The Paris Review, Issue 166 (Summer 2003): accessed February 27, 2017, https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/227/amy-hempel-the-art-of-fiction-no-176-amy-hempel
Posted on March 12, 2017, in Short Stories and tagged At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom, how do you write an account of what inspires your work, interviews with Amy Hempel, Stories by Amy Hempel, what inspires fiction. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.