Picks and Pans Review: Reasons to Live

UPDATED 05/13/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/13/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Amy Hempel

Many of the stories in this slight, 129-page volume are nothing more than sketches—extended notes in some instances. It's a cheat to expect people to pay, rather handsomely, for the opportunity to hear an author say, in effect, "Well, wouldn't this little idea make a fascinating story sometime?" It's not that Hempel, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, isn't often an intriguing, slyly funny writer. One of her domestic tales begins, " Tell me things I won't mind forgetting,' she said. 'Make it useless stuff or skip it.' I began. I told her insects fly through rain, missing every drop, never getting wet. I told her no one in America owned a tape recorder before Bing Crosby did. I told her the shape of the moon is like a banana—you see it looking full, you're seeing it end-on." In another story a woman not too enthusiastically awaiting the arrival of a blind date thinks, "These men, it's not like we don't see them coming. Our intuition is good; the problem is we ignore it." These pieces originally appeared in such periodicals as TriQuarterly, The Missouri Review and Vanity Fair, where they were appropriate and did not seem to be just provocative teases. (Knopf, $11.95)

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