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Loitering: New and Collected Essays

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  1,369 ratings  ·  185 reviews

D'Ambrosio is already considered one of America's premier short story writers, but Loitering cements his place as one of our great living essayists.

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 col
Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Published November 11th 2014 by Tin House Books (first published October 20th 2014)
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Julia Brown He's been in Best American three times with The Point (1991), Screenwriter (2004), and The Scheme of Things (2005). …moreHe's been in Best American three times with The Point (1991), Screenwriter (2004), and The Scheme of Things (2005). (less)
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 ·  1,369 ratings  ·  185 reviews

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My friends are sick and tired, I imagine, of hearing me go on and on about this book. Since I read the beginning of the Preface, I have been unable to stop trying to get everyone to read it, and that continued while I savored every word. This was my first time reading D'Ambrosio, and I regret that I've not known his work until now. Better late than never.

A caveat is that I feel an enormous kindredness to him: suicide in our families, severe discomfort with rigid categorical thinking and a greate
Feb 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
Initially I rated this 3 stars but after looking over the spots I marked it became obvious I couldn't rate this type of writing in the same way I rate fiction. I don't read a ton of essays, I'll catch one or two in a magazine or online but it is sporadic at best. I suppose I went in to this with the same mentality as I would when reading a collection of fictional short stories. I figured there would be a fairly even split between essays I enjoyed and those that didn't hit the right note. And whi ...more
Jan 02, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: small-press
I'll bet Charles D'Ambrosio likes the song "My Way." He's no straight-outta-Iowa crooner, that's for sure, and I admire that. He identifies with the Pacific Northwest, but I'm not sure his circumlocutions are characteristic. He's at his best when exploring the fringes—whaling, dive bar gambling, religious hell houses, eco-uptopias—especially when he manages to convey more strangeness and empathy than cranky judgement (which is not always). His prose is lush, his approach slant. He takes to heart ...more
Jun 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read2014
Fantastic stuff. Highly recommended to everyone, basically.
Nov 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A real delight, contrary in argument, beautiful in construction. Essays collected over time and space, they address issues of his family, his mentally ill father and his two brothers, one successful and one unsuccessful in their suicide attempts, but are also about his work, his literary interests, and his quasi-journalistic explorations.

He quotes Patricia Hampl, quoting Augustine's Confessions in his introduction (having read and reread each recently, it felt he was hitting close to home earl
Classy essays about dambrosio’s brain, haunts in seattle, family, arts, books, brautigan, indian rights, holy rollers, Brodsky, books, geography, mental ism, suicides, books
Sad essays, but with a special d’ambrosio sauce that is all his own. and much of the pov is of the loitering class.
James Murphy
I was impressed with the lyricism of D'Ambrosio's writing. He really is a nimble stylist, really writes interesting sentences with energetic wordplay. But the more of these essays I read in Loitering, the less interested I became in what he has to say, until finally I began to think it was beautiful writing going nowhere. It's a beautiful emptiness. I walked its landscape from end to end and found few ideas in the fabulous prose. As a result, I returned home empty-handed, too. ...more
Ann Douglas
It took me about a year and a half to finish reading this book. Some of the essays in the collection were really tedious -- the worst kind of literary criticism: plodding and nitpicking. The only thing that carried me through to the final page was my curiosity. How did this book become a cult classic? When was I going to hit upon the truly great parts? I'm still wondering. ...more
Jonathan Hiskes
Mar 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These stories reflect D'Ambrosio's wandering through his own life, strolling, sprinting, loitering, probing, dissecting, demonstrating, in so many beautiful ways, a ferocious attention to the stuff of life. I read several rave reviews of this book that left me uninterested, and it took the urging of a good friend (thanks, Chris!) to compel me to read it. I see now why it's tough to explain this book. D'Ambrosio writes about his father and brothers (subjects of deep sadness), about tract homes an ...more
The man has a hell of a writing voice, the kind that can use words like "prolepsis" in his essays without sounding like a pompous ass. And even more than that, he has a hell of a sense of time and place. D'Ambrosio, it seems, seeks to place himself within that peculiarly Pacific-Northwest kind of miserabilism, the kind you associate with endless rainy days, suicidal tendencies, and the daily rhythms of a place predicated on the extraction of minerals, wood, and fish from the unforgiving natural ...more
Charles is remarkable. If you need a strong dose of masculinity and daily tidbits intertwined with potent independent thinking, read Loitering. God, his writing is just astounding. There is no dramatics and exaggeration, and his thoughts on small and meaningful life are so resilient. He pummels his thoughts but D'Ambrosio is clueless about what it means to escalate and catastrophize. Strong, quiet, persistent but crushing writing. A male book without any (self) destruction. You just want to eat ...more
Jan 04, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't like to rate a book I haven't finished, though not being able to get past 60 pages speaks for itself, as typically I am good at dragging myself through writing I find uninspiring, but my eyes are glazing over with effort, my mind is constantly wandering and I am completely un-engaged. I must acknowledge that I am in a very small minority of this book's reviewers, infact, I might just be the only one not to like it so far. ...more
Jul 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
*Received an advanced readers copy through Goodreads first reads

Charles D'Ambrosio's writing is fantastic. I'd give this collection 4.5 stars instead of five, only because there were one or two essays that I just wasn't in love with, but the writing... it was spot on, throughout. Thoughtful and fluid- a great addition to my shelf I'll be sure to visit again.
Jan 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(3.5 stars) Full disclosure: I have never read anything by D'Ambrosio and I absolutely loved the first two sections, swinging back and forth while targeting a clear point and focus; blending personal empirical. The spell for me was broken, however, once I reached the final portion which focused on other writing and concluding with essays that felt labored and wandering. ...more
Dec 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: december-2014
The Michael Chabon of essayists, by which I mean that every sentence is finely crafted and a sensual pleasure to read. Deeply personal, these pieces are ring as true as crystal and skillfully use the intimate to cast a light on the human condition.

Highly recommend for my more erudite friends, but this one was too much for a low brow like me. Splitting the difference between my 3 star rating and the 5 stars the writing probably deserves.
Romany Arrowsmith
I felt really smug when I thought D'Ambrosio had misspelled "pixelated" but it turns out "pixilated" is right and he really is just that good at filling lexical gaps with the perfect nonce word. He's full of nuanced observation like any worthy essayist, but is very cruel in places and in ways that feel unnecessary, just, swinging at anyone he can reach with his wounded little fists. I don't know if providing an equation for the speed and drag of a falling man from a window the world trade center ...more
D'Ambrosio writes out of a deep engagement with human pain--the pain of an abusive and then absent father (and that father's own pain, due to his own history and circumstances), the pain of one sibling lost to suicide and another to mental illness, the pain of failed relationships and sometimes bewildered solitude. He combines this emotional urgency with as flexible and vigorous a use of the English language as one can find anywhere. D'Ambrosio pushes his inquiries (that is how I think of them) ...more
Nov 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not huge for essays on the whole, but maybe I'd dig them more if more were like D'Ambrosio's writing. There is an immense swath of compassion running through his work at the same time that he is meticulous and cuttingly observant. He manages to bring both himself and the subject together at a crossroads and though the essays wander back and forth across that line, the line is still where the essays start on the page and where they stay grounded. I'm probably not going to become a heavy essay ...more
Leif Quinlan
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Loitering is the greatest essay collection I have ever read. D’Ambrosio’s way of thinking, his way of relating to the reader, is reminiscent of Vonnegut in that it is as if you were having a conversation with him rather than reading him. But where Vonnegut makes you feel that way with his charisma, D’Ambrosio makes you feel that way with his naked vulnerability. He seemingly moves along in his essays as if they were taking the normal course of a conversation in all its random detours and enlight ...more
Feb 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, favorites
Many of these essays felt like old friends from either reading them in their original publications or in the Clear Cut Press collection, Orphans. And seeing these old friends at this party made it one of my favorite parties of the year. And like any good party, their were new friends to make. Goddamn, excruciating, smart-as-fuck friends who I'm going to do my damndest to remember and call on, frequently, to remind me of what I need to know. ...more
Molly Mccombs
Aug 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Charles D'Ambrosio has it all going on—an extremely interesting and messed up family history (the two usually do go together), hard-gained wisdom, and erudition to boot—a mind-blowing combination. YEP.

And I expanded my vocabulary (maybe). Here are a few of the words he employed:


Considered me worded-up for the next social gathering! :)

Erin Tuzuner
I couldnt get through this for the longest time; I owe the library money for it and yet it is probably the most evocative and dense thing I've paid attention in the year or so I've had it moved from a backpack to a lake house, to the living room, to my bedside. Some works can feel as though a stone has been tied to your ankles just as you are poised to jump. ...more
Mimi Navan
Aug 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After a long time of not being able to feel through written words for months now, I want to thank D'Ambrosio for allowing me to once again. "Loitering" is infused with a cold honesty you don't often find with many pieces. ...more
Robert Morgan Fisher
Mar 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I want to go back to the beginning and read this book again right now. It's that good. D'Ambrosio is a very special writer. Every essay in this collection contained multiple surprises and delights. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. Get it. ...more
Nov 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interesting essays written in absolutely exquisite prose.
Lukas Evan
One of the best essay collections I've read in years. ...more
Dec 23, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Loved some of the language and a couple essays, but others essays dragged/were too esoteric to enjoy.
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
D'Ambrosio is a gifted and empathetic writer, and I wanted to like these essays more than I did. He is troubled and brilliant -- not his fault -- and I couldn't always follow him or his point. ...more
Feb 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
very smart and well written.
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Charles D'Ambrosio attended the Iowa Writers Workshop after getting his BA in English at Oberlin College in Ohio. He is the author of two collections of short stories, The Point and The Dead Fish Museum, and one collection of essays, Orphans. He has taught at several universities and workshops, including Reed College and The Tin House Summer Workshop, both in Portland, Oregon where he lives with h ...more

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