Saturday, March 12, 2016

Review: "The Point" by Charles D'Ambrosio

If it were not for two really good stories at the beginning and the end, The Point, Charles D’Ambrosio’s first story collection would not be worth picking up. I read his more famous story collection, The Dead Fish Museum a few years ago, but I recall very little of what it was like, so I came into this book somewhat fresh. I can tell that D’Ambrosio has immense talent in the art of the short story. Despite their length, which I will mention, the emotions and themes are well contained within the framework of 30 or 40 pages. But nothing new is brought to mind while reading them, and in some of them, some I’m a little dismayed to say were the longer stories, made me think of writers who had tread in the same territory earlier and better, and reading through them just made me want to read the better stories. As I said, there are two really good stories in this collection, and I will briefly discuss those two. The first one, the title story, sees a man of undetermined age (my guess would be early 20’s), whose life after his father’s suicide consists of being a babysitter for the people at his mom’s parties who are too drunk to walk themselves home. It creates a certain mood where the man feels both physically trapped by his surroundings and emotionally trapped by his grief and the infantilized emotions of those around him. The last story, “Open House” is about a man who helps his lonely, angry father sell his house while reminiscing about one brother who’s in a mental hospital and another who killed himself. This story carries great emotional weight, and is oddly entertaining. Other than that, the stories recall better writers like Denis Johnson or Raymond Carver while never becoming something more. If you can find the two stories mentioned anthologized anywhere, you can avoid this book altogether. 
Rating: 3/5

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