Charles D’Ambrosio’s essay collection Orphans spawned something of a cult following. In the decade since the tiny limited-edition volume sold out its print run, its devotees have pressed it upon their friends, students, and colleagues, only to find themselves begging for their copy’s safe return. For anyone familiar with D’Ambrosio’s writing, this enthusiasm should come as no surprise. His work is exacting and emotionally generous, often as funny as it is devastating. Loitering gathers those eleven original essays with new and previously uncollected work, so that a broader audience might discover one of our great living essayists. No matter his subject—Native American whaling, a Pentecostal “hell house,” Mary Kay Letourneau, the work of J.D. Salinger, or, most often, his own family—D’Ambrosio approaches each piece with a singular voice and point of view; each essay, while unique and surprising, is unmistakably his own.
Special Awards and Endorsements:
Lannan Fellowship; Rasmuson Fellow (United States Artists); Whiting Award; Academy Award in in Literature (The American Academy of Arts and Letters); Pen/Faulkner Award Finalist; New York Times Notable Book (twice); Oregon Book Award Winner; Washington Book Award Winner (twice); New York Public Library 25 Books to Remember from 2006; Pen/ Hemingway Award Finalist; National Endowment for the Arts Grant; Lost Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist; Aga Khan Prize for Fiction (Paris Review); included in various editions of Best American Short Stories, O. Henry Prize, Pushcart Prize; and three time finalist for National Magazine Award.
"... Powerful... highlights D’Ambrosio’s ability to mine his personal history for painful truths about the frailty of family and the strange quest to understand oneself, and in turn, be understood. "
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"Erudite essays that plumb the hearts of many contemporary darknesses."
"Charles D'Ambrosio's essays are excitingly good. They are relevant in the way that makes you read them out loud, to anyone who happens to be around. Absolutely accessible and incredibly intelligent, his work is an astounding relief—as though someone is finally trying to puzzle all the disparate, desperate pieces of the world together again."
—Jill Owens, Powell's
"There are some writers who can write about anything—intending to eat whale meat and talking about procreation and writing instead, being turned into a fictional character that is a shadow of oneself, etc—and it doesn't matter what they write about because their sentences are so brilliant. Charles D'Ambrosio's Loitering is a book that lives up to the title; one wants to linger over each essay until their coffee is cold and their knees are stiff and the world disappears around them."
—Michele Filgate, Community Bookstore
"Charles D’Ambrosio’s essays are funny, moving and subversive whether the author is wondering where he can find just 'a pork chop’s worth' of whale for dinner or ruminating on the Seattle of his childhood where there was 'an abundance of clams and a paucity of culture.' Full of hawkish observation and unexpected generosity, D’Ambrosio’s essays are earthy and companionable, like he’s telling you his stories over a pot of black coffee at the local greasy spoon."
—Brooke Alexander, Brazos Bookstore
Praise for Orphans: Essays
"In this excellent collection of essays . . . D'Ambrosio brings to the real world the same idiosyncratic personal language and keen, melancholic intelligence of his fiction . . . D'Ambrosio's perceptive insistence on the primacy of the individual's voice and viewpoint sounds a resolutely humanistic tone."
—Publishers Weekly, a Starred Review
"By turns witty, scathing, and elegiac, his exacting essays are exceptionally vital quests for meaning, and Seattle-based D'Ambrosio chooses his loaded subjects well, writing with nerve and rigor, for instance, about the controversy over Native American whaling and teacher and convicted sex-offender Mary Kay Letourneau. D'Ambrosio's kinetic and evocative works reach to the very core of being and induce readers to question their every assumption."
"Orphans is a remarkable non-fiction collection, always intriguing, often surprising . . . D'Ambrosio is a major league talent."
—The Seattle Post Intelligencer
Praise for Charles D'Ambrosio
“Charles D’Ambrosio works a rich, deep, dangerous seam in the brokenhearted rock of American Fiction. His characters live lives that burn as dark and radiant as the prose style that conjures them, like the blackness at the center of the candle’s flame. No one today writes better short stories than these."
“It is astonishing that a writer with [D’Ambrosio’s] depth and agility is not a household name. But that, it seems, is about to change.”
“These evocative stories are dark and graceful, as deeply nuanced as novels. D’Ambrosio evokes lives of regret and resignation, and there’s never a false note, only the quiet desperation of souls seeking the elusive promise of redemption.”
—The Miami Herald
“D’Ambrosio, who should be ranked up near Carver and Jones on the top tier of contemporary practitioners of the short story, manages to channel Carver’s deftly elliptical manner and Jones’ wounded machismo. Yet in this collection he marks out his own territory, using only the most steadfast and difficult of a writer’s tools–craft and character–and his own marvelously skewed lens.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
“The stories that make up The Dead Fish Museum are lithe masterpieces of emotional chiaroscuro.”
"Impossible to put down. D’Ambrosio’s prose is fluid, even insinuating. Sentence leads on to sentence with a momentum that mimics the twisted logic of madness, the small steps and sudden turns that lead people from well-lit streets and into dark alleys.”
—The Seattle Times
"Every other sentence is a masterpiece. Not a museum—type masterpiece, to be admired but not touched, to be treasured but not explored, but one you could find on a nature trail, created by the author but guided by the hand of God. . . . A reader will gain something rare after reading this book: a sense of wonder at the resilience of a human soul.”
“D’Ambrosio spins out descriptive lines or dialogue strong enough to lift the entire edifice of a story with a shudder.”