The Melancholy of Departure
Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in
Pub Date: 03/01/2013
List Price: $19.95
The Melancholy of Departure
Filled with sharp dialogue, engaging characters, and offbeat detail, the twelve stories collected in The Melancholy of Departure describe an outsider's world of longing, disillusion, and survival, where hope is found in unexpected places and understanding comes from unlikely sources.
In "Hurley," the title character is a would-be revolutionary who unsuccessfully tries to explain "the difference between erotica and violence against women" to a clerk at a pornography shop called The Fifth Wheel. "Florence Wearnse" centers on a spinster of the World War I generation who goes deaf "to escape the listening, so tired had she grown of stocks and bonds, whooping cough, motor cars, weddings, the Kentucky Derby." A bizarre friendship between a former psychiatric war orderly with an interest in sadism and an obese mental patient who sublimates his needs by eating lemon meringue pie is featured in "Ralph and Larry."
As the title of the collection suggests, many of the stories deal with loss or failed relationships. In "Voici! Henri!," a story set in Paris, an aging Englishman contemplates life without his young lover, Henri, who has left Switzerland with a wealthy baron. "Let Me Tell You How I Met My First Husband, the Clown!" is a bittersweet rememberance of a Jewish woman's first marriage to "Daniel Muldoon: One-Man Flying Circus," a man she believes was "a sort of Ba'al Shem Tov with laughing children on his shoulders, a man whom God has put on this earth to show us the study of Talmud was not the only path."
"At Home with the Pelletiers" chronicles the disintegration of a St. Louis family after the oldest son, Walter, returns home from Marine Corps boot camp during the Vietnam War. Younger brother Howard prefers the Jane Fonda he sees on the nightly news to the actress who played Barbarella and feels uncomfortably at odds with the militaristic Walter, whose stories about war atrocities and sex Howard finds frighteningly similar.
Fully aware of the dangers that await us all-loneliness, commitment, heartbreak, love-the men and women in this collection call out to us from the fringes of society; they are prophets whose messages fall on uninterested ears.
Lush and sophisticated. Heart and mind. Near and far-reaching. Stories that live longer than the duration of your reading them. Stories that live on after the book is closed. No fuller, finer fiction exists anywhere. This is literature. The gift.
—Carolyn Chute, author of The Beans of Egypt, Maine
Sensitive studies of loss and survival.
—New York Times Book Review
A unique collection of short stories, all connected by themes of ending or loss and examining bittersweet, unsuccessful relationships. DePew's characters find commitment, sadness, and loneliness in their heterosexual and homosexual liaisons, but too often no one shares their pain. They manage to survive alone, with just a hint of understanding how things might have been. Sensitive and poetic, DePew feels his characters' pain and enables his audience to feel more acutely.
DePew has impressive skills at hair-down narration and offhand wisdoms.
The anniversary publication of one of my all-time favorite story collections is something to celebrate. The characters have held up beautifully over the years, in all their emotional complexity, their bone-deep humanity, their timeless missteps and triumphs.
—Monica Wood, author of When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, Maine