The Dead Fish Museum

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.

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6 Comments

  1. Hypster mom 05.May.08 at 11:50 am

    I’d love to sit at a table with Charlie and eat tator tots. How cool would that be? I think you should invite him to Grumpys. You are one connected lady lately. I mean it is kinda of your thing…being named in books and drinking beers with famous writers.

    Reply
  2. Jodi 05.May.08 at 11:52 am

    I don’t have a Charlie hookup, sadly. Maybe Peabo can, she went to that conference in Belize with him.

    Reply
  3. Peabo 05.May.08 at 7:27 pm

    I can’t really see Charlie eating tator tots…though he would, I think, be mildly charmed by Grumpy’s.
    We’d all sit outside and he and I (and probably Vodo) would smoke and we’d all drink beer. Charlie wouldn’t talk literature or writing, though. He’d more likely talk about Cheryl Hines who is on his celebrity fuck list (or was in Sept. of 2005) and possibly food because he likes, I think, to cook. Frankly I can’t remember much of what we actually talked about because I was so stunned to be actually speaking with him. Yeah, I’m not a star-fucker AT ALL. Oh, he did email me once from Italy.

    Reply
  4. Hypster mom 05.May.08 at 11:09 pm

    What???? He emailed you from Italy? Was he hot for you? My life is soooooo fucking boring.
    Next time, at Grumpy’s, I want to hear the story, though I don’t know if moist Frank will ever be topped.

    Reply
  5. Jodi 05.May.08 at 11:14 pm

    Nothing could ever top Moist Frank.

    Reply
  6. Peabo 06.May.08 at 9:03 am

    Okay, well, A, let’s not ever mention Charlie and Moist Frank in the same conversation EVER again.
    No, Charlie was not hot for me. His wife is stunning and just about the nicest person in the world and I believe he is quite smitten with her. Still, though, it was pretty fucking cool of him to email me from Italy, I’m not gonna lie.

    Reply

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