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The Dead Fish Museum Paperback – April 10, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400077931
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400077939
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Ten years after his first collection, The Point, D'Ambrosio checks in with a gemlike set of eight stories in which wayward, self-deceiving characters set out to make order of their customary chaos—and realize they are more likely to find unhappy company than catharsis. In "Screenwriter," a major Hollywood player and lifelong depressive falls in love with an elfish, self-mutilating dancer during their stay in a psych ward, where she reminds him that the mechanics of love and mental illness are similarly repetitive. In "Up North," a woman's rape at 18 is at the root of her marital infidelities. During a trip to her family's hunting lodge, her husband is wracked by the need to discover the rapist (one of her father's hunting buddies, but which?) and accept the unhappy terms of his marriage. "The Bone Game" follows Kype, the listless heir to a huge fortune made in a forgotten past, and freeloader D'Angelo as the two drive west to spread Kype's maverick grandfather's ashes. When they pick up a Native American hitchhiker and detour to her Reservation, Kype's dissipation-as-coping-mechanism takes on a harsher, and deeper, cast. D'Ambrosio's dark, intense prose drives these stories like coffin nails. (Apr. 21)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“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“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.” —Michael Chabon“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.” —Elle“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.” —Bloomsbury Review

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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He can write quiet stories.
Kent
One of the stories didn't capture me, but I'm not going to ruin anyone's time by saying which one - we all have our opinions.
Vicki L. Morgan
While Up North was a great read, so are the first three stories in this collection.
Thomas H. Adams

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Myfanwy Collins on October 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In reading this collection, you get the impression that D'Ambrosio is a writer who understands pain--not just his own--that of those around him and that of our culture as a whole. The Dead Fish Museum is another name for a refrigerator that holds the bodies of fish pulled from a filthy river. Fish that will never be eaten, for they are too plentiful, too damaged. They are rotting.

The characters in these eight stories are those fish, and so are we.

Instead of being a culture which hangs onto rites of passage, rituals, ways in which we scar our body that show we have come through childhood--that we have made it into adulthood and are reborn--we are a culture which scars itself in private, which hides in closets and nicks its skin with razor blades, which takes burning matches to its flesh.

In short, we are a culture who holds onto our pain so tightly--indeed, is shackled to it--that the only way to express it is through violence--directed at others, directed at ourselves. And why? Because we don't know what else to do. We have lost our survival skills and escape is no longer an option--fight or flight means nothing.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Vicki L. Morgan on September 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I don't write many reviews, but I had to for this one. D'Ambrosio is a favorite author of mine and his books are few and far between (I'll be looking through The New Yorker for my next fix). One of the stories didn't capture me, but I'm not going to ruin anyone's time by saying which one - we all have our opinions. If I had to pick a favorite though, that would be The High Divide: trenchant emotions, so beautifully expressed. And the ending sticks with you. I had previously read this short story and I happily read it again. It's a book you won't want to give away.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kent on June 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"Charles D'Ambrosio's second collection of fiction is superlative. The Dead Fish Museum demonstrates that Mr. D'Ambrosio can write about anything he chooses. Indeed, his stories are so various that he remains mysterious; his author-personality cannot be caricatured into a marketable outline that would haul him into the American spotlight, where he so richly deserves to be. Mr. D'Ambrosio can write in a humble voice. He can write quiet stories. He can write busy stories. He can write about aggressive, troubled youth. He can quickly sketch a Chinese bodega, kill of the owner, and leave him, a bare resonance at the beginning of a long story. And he can create characters who care almost as much about God as Flannery O'Connor's characters: "If your mind's too great for you," Pete was saying, "you should just let God take it. That's what Christ did. He was braindead. He never thought on his own."

At the same time, Mr. D'Ambrosio can invent a Manhattan screenwriter who keeps "cranking out those bigtime Hollywood screenplays in order to bankroll a lifestyle that broke the sillymeter." He is one of the few writers who can satirize hipster consumerism without sounding small: "In the little syncretic boutiquey spiritual figurines lined up on the windowsill and the crystal prisms strung from the ceiling on threads of monofilament I saw the very same occult trinkets that had decorated every bedroom I'd ever been in." He can also write like a wise old poet, with a character reflecting, "Our life together took on a second intention," after he learns that his wife was raped as a teenager. Or, like a young poet, he can write about a woman's eyes that "When you looked into them, you half expected to see fish swimming around at the back of her head, shy ones."

The Dead Fish Museum collects stories of beauty, insight, and rare eclecticism."
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Archer C. on May 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
From beginning to end this collection of stories was funny, moving, and soulful, especially the stories: "The Screenwriter" and "The Bone Game", which were so strange yet loving and compassionate.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dale Eastman on September 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Read this amazing collection. Nothing more to say, except maybe: start with "Drummond & Sons," an unexpected look at how to love someone who is not the person you wanted or expected to love.
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Format: Hardcover
Charles D'Ambrosio, The Dead Fish Museum (Knopf, 2006)

The people who inhabit Charles D'Ambrosio's stories (which I can't yet figure out is they're interconnected or not) do not live in our world, as much as they seem to. In D'Ambrosio's slightly alternate universe, there is no such thing as hope. These people live in an exceedingly dark world, but they do their best to make the most of what they have; at least, his main characters do. The minor characters often revel in the darkness, exploiting it for their own ends. Take, for example, the building crew in the wonderfully-named title story (the reason for whose name is revealed within, and is one of the novel's finest pleasures). The guy whose POV is the story's focus is one of those who's just trying to make the best of it, but it seemed to me that the main character was one of his underlings, a South American expatriate who relocated to New Jersey after the administration for which he worked was overthrown in a junta. More cynical readers might consider him a stereotypical immigrant, coming to America and being quickly disillusioned with the idea that the streets aren't paved with gold, but his outlook is quietly optimistic as long as he can keep it that way. Arrayed against him is the other underling, an African-American who seems obsessed with the idea of goading him into a racial confrontation. No one in the story (and outside the story, for example the writer of the jacket copy) seems to understand why this confrontation is destined to take place, but you can't help but feel that it is.

It's this sort of layered presentation that separates these stories from the general pack.
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