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The Dead Fish Museum

Los Angeles Times Best Books, 2009  

How was I supposed to know that any mention of suicide to the phalanx of doctors making Friday rounds would warrant the loss of not only weekend-pass privileges but also the liberty to take a leak in private?

In The Dead Fish Museum Charles D'Ambrosio delivers eight short stories full of characters who float through their lives and relationships, adrift and apprehensive, tested by failure and strengthened by adversity.

D'Ambrosio’s stories are set against a landscape that is both deeply American and unmistakably universal. A son confronts his father’s madness and his own hunger for connection on a misguided hike. A screenwriter fights for his sanity in a psych ward while lusting after a ballerina who sets herself ablaze. A hunting trip becomes the scene of a haunting reckoning with marital infidelity and desperation. And in the magnificent title story, carpenters building sets for a porn movie drift dreamily toward an act of racial violence they will never fully comprehend.

Set in remote cabins, asylums, Indian reservations and the streets of suburbia, this collection conjures a world that is fearfully inhospitable, darkly humorous, and touched by humanity.


The High Divide
Drummond & Son
Up North
The Scheme of Things
The Dead Fish Museum
The Bone Game

The Stranger calls “Up North” a masterpiece. Read the full review here.

Charles D'Ambrosio
About the Author

Charles D'Ambrosio is the author of two collections of short stories, The Point (a finalist for the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award) and The Dead Fish Museum (a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award), as well as the essay collection Orphans. His work has appeared frequently in the New Yorker, as well as in Tin House, the Paris Review, Zoetrope...

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31 May 2010
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Praise for Charles D'Ambrosio
andThe Dead Fish Museum

‘These are thoughtful, haunting stories—tantalising snapshots of complex lives and relationships…D'Ambrosio’s writing is acclaimed and worthily so. His clarity of expression and exquisitely crafted sentences make reading his prose at times more like reading poetry.’

‘The six stories contain a wry sense of humour and startling moments of love and beauty. One closes the book with a sense of “ah, so this is life”. Verdict: illuminating.’

‘Pretty well every page in The Dead Fish Museum is memorably written…evocative and persuasive.’

‘This excellent collection of stories combines a stylistically minimalist realist mode with dramatic and traumatic subject matter. D'Ambrosio’s view of human nature is the opposite of sunny but some of his characters have small redeeming moments when the fog lifts of the scales fall from their eyes.’

‘Charles D'Ambrosio’s short stories are powerful studies of outsiders dealing with circumstances that could either give them hope for the future or accelerate their slide. A very rewarding read.’

‘Chabon has said that D'Ambrosio is one of the best short-story writers of contemporary times, and on the strength of this memorable collection, there would be little point disputing this.’

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