The Dead Fish Museum

This is a collection of eight short stories that plumb the depths of Camus’ assertion that the desperate man has no native land. In this contemporary nowhere, but distinctly American, landscape, the characters in these carefully burnished tales—from suicidal carpenters to burning ballerinas—drift around the edges. They’re in cabins in the Pacific Northwest, psych wards and porno movie sets. The wryly understated prose owes a debt to Ray Carver, but D’Ambrosio is more expansive, fleshing things out so that outside and inside—character and locale—are uncannily, spookily fused. Meaning is evanescent: as two former heroin addict grifters, who are in the Iowa cornfields scamming donations for crack babies, fill the backseat of their beater car with silage corn, they begin to realize that every dream is a reservoir of doubt.