Lippman fans won’t be disappointed with these small treasures.

HARDLY KNEW HER

STORIES

People, places and the things they love are the focus of Lippman’s unwavering gaze in this collection of 17 stories, 15 of them reprints from 2001–07.

Not all of Lippman’s characters have the burning sense of justice of Tess Monaghan, Lippman’s series sleuth. The dual heroines of “Scratch a Woman,” the volume’s brand-new centerpiece novella, seem more concerned with safeguarding their comfortable suburban lifestyle against threats real and imagined. Protecting what’s theirs cuts across age categories, as 20-something Molly of “The Crack Cocaine Diet,” over-mortgaged soccer mom Sally in “ARM and the Woman” and senior-citizen porn star Mona in “Femme Fatale” all prove. In the chilling title story, a Dundalk teenager learns to protect herself against her inveterate gambler dad. Lippman’s Baltimore tales have the strongest sense of place, from the tony Brass Elephant on Charles Street where Tess and her best friend Whitney Talbot interrupt a fistfight in “The Shoeshine Man’s Regrets” to the gentrified Federal Hill of “Easy as A-B-C,” to the south-of-Pimlico row houses in “Black-Eyed Susan,” where enterprising families find ingenious ways to make a buck on Preakness Saturday. But her sketches of New Orleans and D.C. ring true, and “Honor Bar,” set in Dublin, could take place in any hotel in any town in the world. As “Dear Penthouse Forum (A First Draft)” demonstrates, Lippman’s best action is inside her characters’ minds anyway.

Lippman fans won’t be disappointed with these small treasures.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-158499-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2008

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Sketchy, in all, with moments of the breathtaking language that characterizes Hempel’s best work.

THE DOG OF THE MARRIAGE

STORIES

Another slim volume from Hempel (Tumble Home, 1997, etc.), the theme this time being skewed and skewered relationships (and, yes, there are dogs in many of the stories).

Most of the nine pieces involve a narrator coping with the end of a relationship. In “Jesus Is Waiting,” Hempel captures the frenzy of a breakup through a narrator who embarks upon the “geographic cure”: long bouts of driving along the highways while listening to the Al Green tape that the man who won’t speak to her made while he still did. In “The Uninvited,” the narrator is preparing to take a pregnancy test (“I was fifty years old and ten days late. If menopausal, go on estrogen; if pregnant, go on welfare”), the potential father being either her estranged husband or a fellow student who came by to pass along class notes and ended up raping her. The title story begins on the last night of a marriage, at the ballet, and follows the narrator through the comforts she gains by training dogs for the blind. In “Beach Time,” the narrator lives next door to careless summer renters who toss their empty Coronas (limes still inside) over the privet hedge and are heedless of the fact that sound carries over water. Their marriage falls apart within her earshot, while she worries because they’re not watering her neighbor’s orchids. Of questionable value are “Memoir,” a single-sentence short-short that doesn’t carry the wit or weight of a run-of-the-mill one-liner, and “Reference #388475848-5,” a rant to the New York City Parking Violations Bureau. But then there’s “Offertory,” a longer piece about a young woman who tells her lover erotic stories from a past affair with a married man and woman, a meditation on storytelling and sex that is stunning in its overall effect.

Sketchy, in all, with moments of the breathtaking language that characterizes Hempel’s best work.

Pub Date: March 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-6451-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2004

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