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The Closer We Are to Dying

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About the Author

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.


"The more one remembers, the closer perhaps one is to dying." Joseph Brodsky's epigraph beautifully sums up Fiorito's memoir of his heavy-drinking and philandering father, an Ontario mailman and bandstand idol and the youngest of a large clan of heavy-drinking, promiscuous brothers. As Dusty Fiorito dies of cancer in a hospital bed, he and the author recall the vibrant, funny, sometimes ribald stories their unique Italian-Canadian family has told and retold over the years, an "endless ribbon of myth about our origins, the whisper of old murders and the tales of those who had died before I was born." Inevitably, some readers will draw a comparison to a certain Irish-American author's bestselling memoir of his hard-drinking father and hardscrabble boyhood, but Fiorito follows a very different narrative line and achieves a very different literary effect. Night after night, through the 21 nights Fiorito sits up with his father in the hospital, the two prepare each other for the older man's death through their exchange of memories and stories. One of the best, and funniestÄin which Fiorito's grandfather pays back his brother for an insult by making him a gift of a "rabbit" that is really the skinned carcass of a catÄis evoked with the brush of a fingertip across Dusty's upper lip and the single word meow whispered through closed teeth. Fiorito's unforced, unsentimental style strikes the perfect tone for his unusual mix of comedy and high emotion, stirring up a touching and effectively understated blend of family history, father-son friendship and personal passage from old anger and resentment into reconciliation and love. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Everyone in 1950s Fort William, Ont., knew Dusty Fiorito. A problem drinker, a mail carrier, an amateur trombonist and singer, the handsome and cruel Dusty enjoyed embellishing the family history. He particularly loved the implied menace in relaying the tale of his forefathers fleeing their native Italy for Canada after an impetuous murder. His son Joe, a journalist, loved his father's way of telling the family legends, but he never forgot Dusty's cruelty--the beating of his wife and children, his infidelities, and his selfishness with money. When Joe's mom called to tell him that Dusty was dying, he rushed to his father's bedside for a 21-day vigil that allowed him to hear the family stories as told by his father one last time. Here Joe recounts his father's life, giving the reader a bedside view of the ambivalent reconciliation between father and son. In death, as in life, Dusty Fiorito is a hard man to care about; his savagery and self-centered attitudes are not so much redeemed as reinforced by this memoir. Recommended for special Italian American or psychology collections.--Pam Kingsbury, Florence, AL Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

"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."
-Mordecai Richler

..".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."
-National Post

"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."
-Montreal Gazette

..".moving and funny and beautifully written....The world needs more books by Joe Fiorito."
-The Spectator

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