Amy Hempel

2008 Rea Award Winner Amy Hempel
Photo: Marion Ettlinger

The New York Times
October 9, 2008


Amy Hempel is the winner of the 2008 Rea Award for the Short Story, the award’s sponsors announced. Ms. Hempel is the author of The Dog of the Marriage, Tumble Home and other story collections. The award, bestowed by the Dungannon Foundation, includes a prize of $30,000.

Chicago Tribune
October 8, 2008

Chicago native wins short-story prize

By John von Rhein

NEW YORK-Author Amy Hempel, whose candid takes on modern life have brought her a small but devoted following, has been named this year’s winner of the Rea Award for the Short Story, a $30,000 prize that in previous years has been given to Paul Bowles, Eudora Welty and Grace Paley.

“Amy Hempel is one of our masters of the dire emotional state rendered with an off-handedness that, combined with tenderness, results in fiction that’s at once dispassionate and compassionate,” the Rea judges said Tuesday in a statement.

A native of Chicago who lives in New York, the 56-year-old Hempel has published such acclaimed collections as Reasons To Live and The Dog of the Marriage.

The Rea award was established in 1986 by publisher Michael M. Rea, who died in 1996.

Hartford Courant
October 9, 2008
The Write Stuff

Amy Hempel Wins Short Story Prize

By Carole Goldberg

The Rea Award for the Short Story, an annual $30,000 prize given to a writer from the United States or Canada for “significant contribution to the discipline of the short story form,” has named its 2008 winner.

She is Amy Hempel, whose The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel was published in 2006 by Scribner and named one of the Ten Best Books of that year by The New York Times and other major newspapers, and won several awards. Her stories have appeared in many magazines and anthologies as well. She directs the Graduate Writing Program at Brooklyn College in New York.

The Rea Award, named for its founder, Michael A. Rea, a lover of the short-story form, was launched in 1986. Now sponsored by the Dungannon Foundation in Washington, Conn., which is directed by his widow, Elizabeth Richebourg Rea, the juried award is one of the most prestigious for this literary genre. Past winners include Cynthia Ozick, Tobias Wolff, Eudora Welty and John Updike.

This year’s jurors, Sheila Kohler, Margot Livesay and Jim Shepard, said in a statement that Hempel, who has been compared to Chekov, “is one of our masters of dire emotional state rendered with an off-handedness that, combined with tenderness, results in fiction that’s at once dispassionate and compassionate.”

The Litchfield County Times
New Milford, CT
October 10, 2008

Hempel 2008 Rea Ward Winner

By Douglas P. Clement

WASHINGTON—At the end of a good short story, at least two things happen—every strand of narrative comes together to render the whole work seamlessly powerful, and a door is left open so the reader can savor the implications like after-notes of fine wine.

Elizabeth Richebourg Rea, the photographer and Washington resident who lovingly administers an annual award for masters of the short story form, knows well the importance of context when it comes to the tapestry of fine prose.

So, in announcing this week that Amy Hempel is the recipient of the 2008 Rea Award for the Short Story, Ms. Rea presented the news within the context of renewed optimism for a genre of writing that has set the tone for enlightened human interaction for centuries.

Last Sunday, Ms. Rea enthusiastically noted, the brilliant and unique author Steven Millhauser published in The New York Times Sunday Book Review a tribute to, or perhaps defense of, the short story and its modestly proportioned aspirations. The piece convludes by saying of the short story, “It exults in its shortness. It wants to be shorter still. It wants to be a single word. It if could find that word, if it could utter that syllable, the entire universe would blaze up out of it with a roar …. .”

And therein lies the point. A masterful short story gives no quarter to the supposed limitations imposed by its defining brevity. Instead, the story aims, like the greatest art and music, to reorder the world and its history, while ultimately also proving revelatory of larger truths so far unimagined. Where that happens is in the hands of the authors who, each year, are chosen for the Rea award, a tribute with a $30,000 prize attached that was conceived and initiated by the late Michael Moorhead Rea, a devotee of the short story whose proud Irish ancestry instilled within him a reverence for the lyrical qualities of writing that sought to tap into the immortal. His worldly successes in real estate in the Washington, D.C., area enabled him, through his Dungannon Foundation, to create and endow the annual award that is now administered by Ms. Rea.

“I was delighted that Amy won because she’s primarily a short story writer.” Ms. Rea said this week of an author whose collected stories were released in 2006 in a volume named one of the year’s 10 best books by The New York Times.

In announcing the selection of Ms. Hempel, this year’s judges—authors Sheila Kohler, Margot Livesey and Jim Shepard—wrote, “Amy Hempel is one of our masters of the dire emotional state rendered with an off-handedness that, combined with tenderness, results in fiction that’s at once dispassionate and compassionate. She has been called many things: our Chekov, our Kleist, but surely, she is above all her own creation, a courageous writer whose wit and concentrated sentences capture our contemporary vulnerability, the fleeting moments of our joy and sorrow, our attempts to find reasons to live.”

It makes readers unfamiliar with Ms. Hempel’s oeuvre want to go out and buy her books, which is only part of the point of the Rea award, which, like the stories and authors it celebrates, aspires to loftier goals—perhaps the salvation, through the reading of great literature, of an entire civilization.

That may be overstating the case, but Ms. Rea is cognizant of the need for contemporary society to put in context the superficial nature of life encouraged in an Internet age when truly connecting is increasingly rare.

The short story, she said, by virtue of its size, scope and impact, is the perfect bridge for the return to a more contemplative life. With the Rea Award finding increasing affirmation in its second decade, “It certainly, I think, has helped,” Ms. Rea said.