Loitering: New and Collected Essays
Loitering: New and Collected Essays
Charles D'Ambrosio
Tin House Books, 2014
368 pp., $15.95

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Kelly J. Baker


Essays that suspend judgment to make the case for compassion and understanding.

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Sympathy and doubt drive D'Ambrosio's essays. He notes that doubt and "the unknown" fuel the "the engine of the essay" as a form of writing. Ignoring that, or more deliberately severing the essay from its purpose, "leaves us with articles and theses, facts and information, our side and their side … but nowhere to turn in a moment of true need." Loitering is his attempt to bind us together by our doubts. In essay after essay, D'Ambrosio demonstrates that it is okay to not know. Wavering emerges as a virtue, not a flaw. He urges us to be nervous about the impulse to take sides, the assured conclusions that many offer, and the practiced apathy toward the suffering of others.

Writing an essay is a form of loitering, but life is also about loitering until we die. We can loiter with intent. Or, we can't. Most of us do varying degrees of both, but some of us struggle for an "apparent purpose," a proper motivation to guide us as we linger. We seek. We yearn. We find ourselves wanting. We doubt. We don't know. D'Ambrosio is there for those us who are still seeking a purpose. He offers us sympathy. He encourages us to remember that we are all human, particularly flawed. He encourages us to waver and to question. He provides the words that we can't speak. His essays never abandon us, his readers, in our time of need.

Kelly J. Baker is the author of The Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK's Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930 (University Press of Kansas) and The Zombies Are Coming! The Realities of the Zombie Apocalypse in American Culture (Bondfire Books). She has written for the Atlantic, Chronicle Vitae, Faith Street, Religion Dispatches, and the Christian Century's Then & Now. She can be followed on Twitter @kelly_j_baker.

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