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A New York Times Notable Book, 2015
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 the world’s 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.
‘[D'Ambrosio] is one of the strongest, smartest and most literate essayists practicing today.’
‘This powerful collection 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.’
‘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.‘
‘D’Ambrosio is a writer with an unusual combination of qualities: penetrating, critical powers and a lyrical, almost hypnotic, prose style. He’s an expert a capturing the strangeness of familiar things.’
‘Exuding empathy, his writing is considered and moving.’
‘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.’
‘He’s [D’Ambrosio] funny, insightful, intimate and inquiring.’
‘What I admired most about these essays is the way each one takes its own shape, never conforming to an expected narrative or feeling the need to answer all the questions housed within. D’Ambrosio allows his essays their ambivalence.’
‘An exciting essay collection because it takes ideas and heady, essayistic topics—whales, hell houses, the overused, wheezing corpse of J.D. Salinger—and it manages to make something new out of them…Every one is a pleasure, diamond-cut and sharp in its incisive observations on how to be a human.’
‘This careful dance of high and low, of timing, circumspection, and room for nuance—and the disarming honesty—make it clear that D'Ambrosio knows how to write a good essay, but what makes the collection great is his vast, almost painfully acute sense of compassion…it delivers that most primal pleasure of reading—the feeling of being understood, of not being alone.’
‘There is a haunted quality to Charles D’Ambrosio’s new collection…they morph, delve deeply and never quite arrive at the place you expect…These essays record his courageous search for unusual and poetic truths.’
‘This is raw stuff delivered with urgent fluency…I think I’ve joined the Charles D’Ambrosio cult.’
‘Quietly brave…profoundly lyrical, in a precise yet playful way.’
‘This volume of the collected essays and journalism of Charles D'Ambrosio shows what pleasure is to be had when a first-class writer is given their head and space to roam…[D'Ambrosio] is self-conscious in his responses, both intellectual and emotional, so that there is a kind of architectural honesty about his writing. You can see the pulleys and levers and exactly what makes him tick.’
‘D’Ambrosio stands here revealed as one of the smartest, most literary essayists practicing today.’