Category Archives: Reader Response

Amy Hempel’s “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” and Nathan Englander’s “In This Way We Are Wise”

Please address one or more of the following questions in your response.  Remember to keep these brief–about a paragraph or so in length.

1)  How do Hempel and Englander make their narrators’ anxiety apparent?  One way of answering this might be to look at the stories’ structural similarities — how the scenes are arranged, how transitions are handled, etc.

2)  Both of the writers are using elements from “real life.”  Englander is an American who lived for several years in Jerusalem in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and Hempel’s story is dedicated to the woman who provided the model for the sick friend.  With that in mind, are these honest stories?  Why or why not?

Extra bonus points if you can come up with a relationship between “honesty” and structure . . .

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Bharati Mukherjee’s “The Management of Grief”

Please address one or more of the following questions in your response.  Remember to keep these brief–about a paragraph or so in length.

1) How does Mukherjee reveal the enormity of the narrator’s loss over the first page and a half?

2) Is the tone consistent throughout this story?  How so (or how not), and why (or why not)?

Dinaw Mengestu’s “An Honest Exit”

Please address at least one of the following questions in your response.  Remember to keep this brief–about a paragraph or so in length.

1) Do you trust this narrator?  Why or why not?

2) What expectations are set in the first paragraph of the story?

3) How do the narrator’s feelings towards his students and his father develop throughout the piece?  Support your position with evidence from the story.

Kevin Brockmeier’s “A Day in the Life of Half of Rumpelstiltskin” and Robert Olen Butler’s “Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot”

Please address one the following questions in your response.  Remember to keep these brief–about a paragraph or so in length.

Do you these stories transcend their jokey premises?  If so, what strategies do the writers employ to make that happen?  If not, where do you think the writers missed opportunities to do so?

Deborah Eisenberg’s “Twilight of the Superheroes”

Please address at least one of the following questions in your response.  Remember to keep this brief–about a paragraph or so in length.

1) Why do you think Eisenberg structured the story as she did?

2) On a sentence level, this story contains a very high number of exclamations and italicized words and phrases.  What’s the effect of this stylistic choice on you as a reader, and why do you think Eisenberg chose it?

Amy Bloom’s “Silver Water”

Please address one or more of the following questions in your response. Remember to keep these brief–about a paragraph or so in length.

1) Why do you think Bloom chose Violet as the story’s narrator?  How much do you trust her (Violet) and why?

2) There’s a lot of humor in this story — is it appropriate, given the subject matter?  Why would Bloom include it?

3) By the end of the story, how have your feelings toward the family, especially Violet, changed?  What do you think about these people?  Who’s the most sympathetic?

Jean Thompson’s “It Would Not Make Me Tremble to See Ten Thousand Fall”

Please address one or more of the following questions in your response.  Remember to keep these brief–about a paragraph or so in length.

1) What’s the POV (point of view) in this story, and why do you think Thompson chose it?  Would you have preferred to see Kelly Ann or one of the other characters as narrator instead?

2) Is Jonesy useful to the story?  What about the killdeer?

3) What’s the significance of the scene on page 58-59 (in which Kelly Ann, Jack, Lucy and Pete talk about childbirth)?