Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Point - Charles D'Ambrosio


Is started reading this story about a month ago – got about 1/3 of the way through and set it aside. I can’t remember why – life, I suppose. In any case, I’m glad I did. I picked it back up on July 5th and started it from the beginning realizing at once that my head was in the right place for this story – now.

This is a really good story. This is a story that will stay with me for a long – long time. Perhaps because there is a father/son relationship line that I found very touching that really pulled me into the story.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with my sons and how it will grow and develop over the years and how they will look back on these times when they are older. I think often at length about how they will remember me when I’m gone and these thoughts often leave a lump on my throat, not because I regret anything that I have done – but because I just want to be the best for them – and I hope that someday they will see that I tried.

Kenison pulled the story for consideration by Adams and she pulled it from the couple of hundred that she read to be included with the other 19 in this edition. I’m grateful for its inclusion in the BASS 1991.

It’s a New Yorker story. Before I figured out where exactly “The Point” was, I figured it was on the east coast – solidifying my thoughts that New Yorker stories could be spotted miles away. I was wrong.

It’s still a New Yorker story – but I feel like it’s pulling a bit away from the typical New Yorker story.

You know what I mean- if you know what I mean.

This is the first appearance of Charles D'Ambrosio in both The New Yorker and in The Best American Anthology. If my calculations are correct, he was 32 when it was published in the magazine. This story appeared in the October 1, 1990 edition of the magazine and he disappears from future inclusion in the magazine until we see him pop back up in 2002. Additional stories by Charles appear in The New Yorker in ’03 (two stories), ‘04, ‘05 and finally in ‘06. Two of those stories appeared in future collection of BASS – so we will encounter Charles again in the 2004 and 2005 edition of the BASS. At my rate of reading, that means I’ll read him again in a few years. Unfortunate.
 Thinking about this story a bit more, I feel that I am attracted to it because there are aspects of the style and plot that remind me of Updike. Perhaps I’m not literary enough and I’m too “basic” but I feel something there.
   
As mentioned above, this story gained a wider audience when it was published in the The New Yorker. It appeared there 26 years and 9 months ago. The story still holds up. The main character, wise beyond his years could still be walking drunk party-goers home to their summer houses, he could still be reading a letter from a father, broken not from the Vietnam War but from the Endless War we are in now.

“He wasn’t even a person then, just a blown-up thing, just crushed-up garbage. Part of his head was blasted away, and there was blood and hair and bone splattered on the windshield. It looked like he’d just driven the car through something awful, like he needed to use the windshield wipers, needed to switch the blades on high and clear the way, except that the wipers wouldn’t do him any good, because the mess was all on the inside.”

I looked back at the October 1st edition. Over 25 years ago. In the age we live in, that seems so long ago. Flipping through the pages I’m taken back to when I was a newly minted 18 year old – far from home and starting a new life. I was beginning my second life. I was a freshman at Norwich and in the middle of hell. My life was controlled by a bunch of 20 year olds and I was struggling with freshman academics. I was pretty much cut off from the outside world – except for two newspapers I read daily. The Boston Globe and The Wall Street Journal. I heard no music and saw no TV.

Looking through the pages of the Oct. 1 NY’er, I see that by October 1990 the US had amassed 150,000 troops in the Middle East and we were about to enter into Gulf War I. The Gap and The Banana Republic held key advertising spots in the magazine – inside the front cover and opposite the table of contents page. Advertisements for cigarettes were nowhere to be seen while there was a single advert for Dewer’s Scotch on the back cover. Advertisements for cars dominated while small spots for fruit, almonds and mixed nuts appeared. Also on more than one page were adverts for travel packages to Europe. TWA was still around. Nordic Track has a small spot. There were no .com’s yet and if you wanted additional information from a particular company advertised, you could call them toll-free or write to them for a catalog.

26 years ago and a different world.

Sometimes I miss that world.

This story takes me back there but makes sure I have one foot firmly planted in the present.     

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