Book Fight!

Tough love for literature

Summer of Love: Charles D’Ambrosio, “Drummond and Son”


This week’s story is one of Tom’s favorites, which he often teaches as an antidote when his students complain that his story selections are too depressing. Though it’s debatable whether D’Ambrosio’s story of a man caring for his psychologically troubled son is really a happy one. Hopeful, maybe? In a sort of stoic way?

We talk about D’Ambrosio’s knack for dialogue, and his often beautiful sentences. Though we also discuss whether these strengths translate to readers who aren’t also writers. Does “reading as a writer,” while useful for your own writing, begin to disconnect you with how others read a story? Where’s the line between enjoyable and admirable, or is that even a line worth thinking about?

In addition to the story, we talk about some of history’s (and pop culture’s) worst dads, Canadian bears, and the TV show Sanford and Son. We also take a question from a listener about whether the way a person falls in love changes over time. Which Mike has a lot of thoughts about, though it’s debatable whether any of those thoughts are true, or even make much sense outside his own brain.

As always, we’re happy to hear what you think about the stuff we talked about this week. Do you think we’re wrong about the story? Do you think we’re wrong about love? You can email us directly, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. Also: we’re on Facebook, and gradually getting better about posting studio pics and links and such. So come visit us over there, like our page, etc. etc.

You can stream today’s episode by clicking on the little player thingy below, or download the mp3 file to play on your favorite device. Or visit us in the iTunes store, or wherever you normally get your podcasts, where you can download back episodes and subscribe (for free) so that you never miss another weekly installment.

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Author: mikeingram25

writer, editor

2 thoughts on “Summer of Love: Charles D’Ambrosio, “Drummond and Son”

  1. RE: Bad Dad List
    The pedant in me feels compelled to point out Lot did not “fuck his daughters”; his daughters fucked him. Like B.C. Bill Cosbys, his daughters got him passed out drunk and raped him. In their defence, they had just witnessed what they assumed to be the end of the world and believed themselves to be the only three people left alive, and so it was their duty to repopulate the world.

    Now, the thing that should have gotten Lot on the Bad Dad list was something that happened much earlier, when in an attempt to stave off a wild mob, Lot offered to let them rape his two daughters (different daughters) if the mob would leave everyone else alone.

    So, I suppose the whole Lot saga could be viewed as a Biblical O’ Henry story, where the awful thing Lot tried to have happen to his daughters in the beginning ends up happening to him at the very end.

  2. Funny you mention the college class thing, Dead Fish Museum was one of like, six short story collections I had to read in what I think was my first semester of college for my introductory creative writing class. It all blends together at this point. I had completely forgotten about having ever read this story until like, halfway through the podcast. Revisiting it now, even listening to you guys I can see why I found it utterly forgettable.
    Like, don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but in the arena of personal taste the father-son story in here doesn’t stand out to me. I don’t know if I could tell you why, it’s not like I’ve read a million touching narratives of the love between a father and his child and become jaded to all signs of fatherly affection. Maybe I’d have a better connection if I was a man? Or a parent?
    As to the writing, I think the hard truth is that, for most readers, once you get to a certain level of competence (and sometimes not even there) most people don’t really notice or care how tightly composed or beautifully written your sentences are. Just like how the only person that’s going to appreciate how efficiently coded a piece of software is, is another programmer, or programming enthusiast, I guess. (I’m look at you, English department) Writing really only ‘needs’ to be good enough to not interfere with the story the reader is constructing in their head using the words you’ve arranged on the page for them. I don’t want to belittle having pride in your craft as a writer, but well… as a reader?
    I can appreciate a well written, finely crafted piece of prose, sure, except if the only thing your story has got going for it is some pretty words, you’ve got nothing for me. Even as a writer, I’m not going to note that a particular section was cleverly put together when I’m not already invested in the words I’m reading, and if I’m reading on my own time, I’ve probably already put the book down.

    “Where’s the line between enjoyable and admirable, or is that even a line worth thinking about?”

    Isn’t admiration a kind of joy? Even if your reading some utterly trashy piece of airport lit, if you’re enjoying it, doesn’t that mean there’s something in that mess that’s admirable? And on the reverse a work that leaves you emotionally devastated, but admiring how it was done, wouldn’t you still say you enjoyed that work on some level?
    I think ‘reading as a writer’ only disconnects you if you let it. If you start thinking about literature as some kind of masturbatory monument to authorial craftsmanship, then yeah, you’re going to alienate anyone that doesn’t think along the same lines. I’m pretty sure that’s how American Pastoral happened. That’s a book only a college professor could love.

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