Birthday Reviews: Don D’Ammassa’s “The Library of Lost Art”

Birthday Reviews: Don D’Ammassa’s “The Library of Lost Art”

Cover by David Lee Anderson
Cover by David Lee Anderson

Don D’Ammassa was born on April 24, 1946

D’Ammassa won the FAAN Award in 1979 for Best Single Issue of a Fanzine for Mythologies #15. He has been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer four times and for Best Fanzine twice, without receiving the Hugo. Although D’Ammassa has written dozens of short stories, collected in more than a dozen volumes, and numerous novels, he is best known as a reviewer and a critic.

“The Library of Lost Are” was published by Algis Budrys in issue #5 of Tomorrow Speculative Fiction, which appeared in October 1993. The story has never been reprinted. Tomorrow ran for 24 print issues through 1997. From 1997 until 2000, the magazine was published online only, one of the first online magazines. Unfortunately, much of the magazine’s electronic record has been lost.

There are many stories of libraries which contain unwritten or lost books, and “The Library of Lost Art” is one. It focuses on John Cosgrove, who as an eleven year old boy was sent to spend the summer with his Uncle Dan, one of the only times he met him. Dan and Cosgrove immediately found themselves sympatico and Dan showed his nephew his library. It was filled with books that had never been published, just as the rest of the house was filled with art which had never been realized.

Although it is clear that an adult Cosgrove is reflecting back on his visit to his uncle’s house, there is little of an eleven year old in his portrayal.  The child version of Cosgrove not only thinks like an older person, but shows interests in literature which seem wrong for even the most precocious eleven year old.

The lost art, art, literature, and music of Uncle Dan’s house invoke a sense of wonder and a sense of loss as Cosgrove describes watching silent films which are known to have been lost or never made, and rattles off titles of books and plays which never existed. This sense of loss, however, is undermined by Cosgrove’s description of his own failure to publish his own book, which eventually appears in the library, leading to the question of whether “lost” literature is only good in the abstract rather than the published.

Reviewed in its only publication in the magazine Tomorrow Speculative Fiction #5, edited by Algis  Budrys, October 1993.

Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a sixteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Doing Busines at Hodputt’s Emporium” in Galaxy’s Edge. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 5 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7. He has been the news editor for SF Site since 2002.

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I believe I once had every issue of Tomorrow, and I always enjoyed Don D’Ammassa’s work

Rich Horton

I think I have all the print issues as well. I liked that magazine, liked Budrys’ editorial voice and presence, and also his stories (for which he used his old pseudonyms).

Somewhere along the way he got sucked down the Scientology rabbit hole, and he had severe health problems — all quite sad. I met him once, at Archon I think, very late in his life. He was in a wheelchair as I recall.

John ONeill

I interviewed Algis Budrys in the early days of SF Site — July 1997 — to find out more about this crazy online magazine idea he had. Fascinating guy.

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