Year in Reading

A Year in Reading: Charles D’Ambrosio

By posted at 5:46 am on December 6, 2006 1

Auther Charles D’Ambrosio has written two collections of short stories, The Point and, this year, The Dead Fish Museum. He also has a collection of essays, Orphans. D’Ambrosio’s stories regularly appear in the New Yorker and other notable magazines. The best book D’Ambrosio read this year was the autobiography of a jazz musician. “Maybe this copping out,” D’Ambrosio says,

coverbut the book I’ve loved the most this year is Art Pepper’s autobiography, Straight Life, which was revised and reissued by Da Capo Press in 1994. I know next to nothing about jazz, haven’t listened to a lick of Art Pepper, but a smart guy in a bar in Portland told me I had to pick up the book – we were drinking – and it is, as drunkenly promised, really good. It makes me wish I were an aficionado. Art Pepper lived through all kinds of hell, which may be standard stuff for jazz greats, I don’t know, but what makes Straight Life an excellent read isn’t the sexual compulsion, the heroin, the crime, the brutal life in San Quentin – all juicy reading, for sure – but the intimacy, the way you get inside the dreamy logic of being Art Pepper. With a reality like that, who needs dreams, I guess, but Pepper’s story is, from beginning to end, so sad and soulful it’s like he never happened on our frequency – and this book (along with the music, which I plan to hunt down) is the vibrant record of the peculiar sound he existed in.

Thanks Charles!

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One Response to “A Year in Reading: Charles D’Ambrosio”

  1. Anonymous
    at 7:36 am on December 6, 2006

    I may give this a try. Twelve Bar Blues, by Patrick Neate is one of my favourite books, specifically for what D'Ambrosio calls 'dreamy logic'. I think that's a fab phrase and especially reaches out to those of who like something that hints at magical realism but is somewhat more grounded.

    (12 Bar Blues deals with the jazz music culture and takes us on a global explorative tour of its roots, via colourful characters, emotion and humour.) McGrrrr

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