Hempel used to be in that category known as a "writer's writer" — critically praised, loved devotedly by fellow authors, and often taught (particularly her near-perfect story, "In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried") but not widely read. In fact, several of her early collections of stories were out of print and difficult to find. But with the publication of her Collected Stories a few years ago, there's now no excuse for not reading her. Hempel is one of the best story writers in America today, hands-down — her incredible, sharp-edged prose, her precise minimalist style, her devastating and often absurd humor and poignancy have made her a touchstone and influence for other contemporary writers. Hempel's Collected Stories is an abundance that will reward readers again and again. –Jill O.