cover image The Dead Fish Museum

The Dead Fish Museum

Charles D'Ambrosio, . . Knopf, $22 (236pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-4286-9

Ten years after his first collection, The Point , D'Ambrosio checks in with a gemlike set of eight stories in which wayward, self-deceiving characters set out to make order of their customary chaos—and realize they are more likely to find unhappy company than catharsis. In "Screenwriter," a major Hollywood player and lifelong depressive falls in love with an elfish, self-mutilating dancer during their stay in a psych ward, where she reminds him that the mechanics of love and mental illness are similarly repetitive. In "Up North," a woman's rape at 18 is at the root of her marital infidelities. During a trip to her family's hunting lodge, her husband is wracked by the need to discover the rapist (one of her father's hunting buddies, but which?) and accept the unhappy terms of his marriage. "The Bone Game" follows Kype, the listless heir to a huge fortune made in a forgotten past, and freeloader D'Angelo as the two drive west to spread Kype's maverick grandfather's ashes. When they pick up a Native American hitchhiker and detour to her Reservation, Kype's dissipation-as-coping-mechanism takes on a harsher, and deeper, cast. D'Ambrosio's dark, intense prose drives these stories like coffin nails. (Apr. 21)