One night at Grumpy’s Hispter Mom, Jags, Vodo, and I were talking about writing. This should come as no surprise because that’s all we ever talk about. Hipster Mom talked about how her stories are always about California and dark things. Jags writes about drugs or alcohol, I write about lonely women with bickering families who work at bowling alleys, and Vodo writes about Bob Stinson. If Charles D’Ambrosio had been sitting at the table eating tator tots, he’d have said he writes about fishing, the Pacific northwest, and psychological problems.
I’m having a hard time writing about D’Ambrosio’s collection The Dead Fish Museum. I don’t know what my problem is. I read the book a few weeks ago based on a recommendation, and while I am pretty sure I enjoyed it. I can hardly remember the stories in it. That’s kind of sad, because I always remember stories. My friends often joke about my rainman-like ability to randomly remember the stories written by our classmates. And here I am trying to write about a book I read two weeks ago and I can’t come up with anything.
I do remember that my favorite story in the collection is “The Screenwriter.” I love this story because the voice of the narrator is so different than anything else I’ve ever read from D’Ambrosio. It’s really fast, glib, and fun. The story is about this millionaire movie screenwriter who ends up in a mental hospital and while he’s there he has this really weird relationship with a ballerina who likes to burn herself. It’s so awesome. There is a scene about her dancing and lighting herself on fire that will kick your ass in all the good ways that literature can kick your ass.
Oh! And there’s a great story about this dude who goes up north for thanksgiving with his wife, his wife’s parents, and some of their friends. Along the way we learn that the wife often cheats on the dude and that she was raped by one of her dad’s friends — a friend staying at the cabin that weekend. It’s pretty intense.
I feel a little bit like I’m damning the book with faint praise, and I don’t want to. It’s a great collection, D’Ambrosio is a master of the short story. But somehow I feel like the writing is a little restrained. Everything scene, every sentence is completely controlled. It leaves me a little cold. I want a little passion, a little sloppiness, and there is none to be found in D’Ambrosio’s stories.