For anyone who’s ever had a flash of doubt or a realisation of ignorance and embraced it, Charles D’Ambrosio is your writer. Perhaps the author says it best when he writes in the introduction to Loitering:
‘[I wonder] where all the other people are who don’t know, who don’t understand.’ It’s a rare attitude to encounter in a non-fiction author, because isn’t the person writing supposed to impart their hard-earned knowledge to us? On this point, D’Ambrosio acknowledges that, Google assists aside, he doesn’t know any more than we do. And that willing vulnerability is exactly what makes his essays such delightful companions.
The pieces in Loitering range from D’Ambrosio’s career beginnings in the 1970s to the present, from his Seattle home to Brooklyn Heights, but like many great writers, D’Ambrosio seems to create outside the boundaries of time and location.
In every essay, D’Ambrosio keenly displays one vital skill a non-fiction writer can’t fake: observation. He moves so fluidly between his own thoughts and the details of his surroundings that only when dissecting his writing does it become apparent how carefully he has constructed every innocent descriptor. Whether depicting the thick Plexiglas and brown walls of the Moscow Hotel in St. Petersburg, or the grocery basket of an ‘ancient Italian woman’ in Brooklyn, he demonstrates that his role in the world is not as an explainer but as a narrator.
When tasked to write about Fleetwood-manufactured houses, the fantasy of newness first awes D’Ambrosio until, he admits, he loses that optimism and can’t think of anything nice to say about them at all. So instead of pandering, instead of digging desperately into empty facts just to finish the piece, he relays his experience researching the homes.
‘Storytelling’ is just what D’Ambrosio does, seemingly as easily as blinking: He transforms everyday experiences, uncertainty and all, into perfect stories.