Format: Trade Paperback, 328 pages
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
ISBN: 978-0-7710-3136-6 (0-7710-3136-X)
Pub Date: September 1, 2000
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The Closer We Are to Dying is newspaper columnist Joe Fiorito’s spectacular debut as a book writer. A natural story-teller, Fiorito’s extraordinary talent is revealed in prose that is spare, tough, and tender. In this memoir of his family, he writes with a full heart, wielding language like a knife.
In the 1950s in Fort William, Ontario, when Joe Fiorito was growing up, it was wrong to be poor and Italian, and risky to be bookish – and he was all of these. He was also marked as a member of a lively and infamous clan. Strangers could size him up at a glance and tell he was a Fiorito; Dusty’s boy.
Everyone knew Dusty. He was handsome and hard and hot-tempered. He was a man his son loved and loathed with equal fervour. And it is Dusty who occupies the heart of this book.
A letter carrier, a small-town trombonist and occasional crooner, a heavy drinker, Dusty was both the keeper and maker of the family’s many stories. At the end of his life, as Dusty lay dying in hospital, Joe sat with him at nights, listening one last time to the family legends, now burnished to a perfect lustre by repeated tellings – stories too fantastic to be fiction, too pointed to be entirely true. Stories narrated in exquisite style in The Closer We Are to Dying.
Fiorito’s striking talent is revealed both in his laconic prose and superlative story-telling, and in the affection and empathy of his vision. The Closer We Are to Dying is a beautiful reminder that while only the powerful are remembered in the history books, the lives of the powerless can also be the stuff of enduring myths.
“A small, quiet masterpiece.”
–The Times, (U.K.)
“Fiorito has all the right stuff. His splendid memoir about his relationship with his dying father belongs on that small shelf with Philip Roth’s Patrimony and Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes.”
“…like a non-fiction One Hundred Years of Solitude. Fiorito proves himself a storyteller of remarkable gifts: there’s an aura of dignity and beauty over events, sometimes terrible, sometimes tender.”
“Joe Fiorito writes like a rough-hewn angel. This meditation at the bedside of his dying father blossoms into a lavish bouquet of family stories that speak volumes about the power of myth to tell us who we are.”
–Globe and Mail
“Remarkable.…In language that is clear, precise, and often searingly direct, Fiorito tells the story of the man, the family, and the city without romanticizing or damning any of them.”
“It is [Fiorito’s] electric imagination which lights up the book, each story rendered in a nearly faultless prose. Fiorito is a disciple of what Cyril Connolly termed ‘the plain style,’ simple, stripped-down language capable of achieving an austere poetry.”
“…moving and funny and beautifully written.…The world needs more books by Joe Fiorito.”
Joe Fiorito is the author of Comfort Me With Apples, first published in 1994, and Tango on the Main (1996), a selection of his city columns from the Montreal Gazette. His family memoir, The Closer We Are to Dying, published in 1999, was a national best-seller and earned the author further critical acclaim. Guy Vanderhaeghe called it “a remarkable memoir, perhaps the finest by a Canadian writer since John Glassco’s Memoirs of Montparnasse appeared in 1970.” Fiorito lives in Toronto and writes for the Toronto Star.
From the Hardcover edition.
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