Discussion Question

Living writers Amy Hempel and Karen Russell add a contemporary flare to these issues of life, death, and “the other side,” in their respective short stories. Read “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” p. 206 and “Vampires in the Lemon Grove” p. 419 and respond to the following: 

Arguably, it is human nature to tell stories about things we don’t understand or even fear. How do these stories critique the practice of storytelling? You might consider how the speaker in “Vampires in the Lemon Grove” states, “You small mortals don’t realize the power of your stories” (427). What does he mean by this? How does this attitude compare with the preference for the “useless stuff” (207) in “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried,” where the speaker remarks about the details of a story, “Who cares whether or not it’s true?” (215). 

Kelly, Joseph, ed. The Seagull Book of Stories. / ISBN: 


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