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Conversations with Andre Dubus

Conversations with Andre Dubus

Edited by Olivia Carr Edenfield
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 224
  • Book Info
    Conversations with Andre Dubus
    Book Description:

    Over three decades, celebrated fiction writer Andre Dubus (1936-1999) published seven collections of short stories, two collections of essays, two collections of previously published stories, two novels, and a novella. While this is an impressive publishing record for any writer, for Dubus, who suffered a near-fatal accident mid-career, it is near miraculous. Just after midnight on July 23, 1986, after stopping to assist two stranded motorists, Dubus was struck by a car. His right leg was crushed and his left leg had to be amputated above the knee. After months of hospital stays and surgeries, he would suffer chronic pain for the rest of his life. However, when he gave his first interview after the accident, his deepest fear was that he would never write again.

    The Lieutenant

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-947-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xviii)

    Andre Dubus was a generous man. He enjoyed people and good conversation. He was warm, gregarious, engaging, and smart. He liked to tell stories and to talk about the art of telling stories. He liked to write and to talk about the art of writing. For these reasons and because people—students, journalists, other short-fiction writers—found him approachable, he gave forty-two interviews (thirty-six print and six audio) over the course of his writing career, half of which are collected here. Andre was easy to be with, perhaps because he showed an interest in the person before him. He was...

  4. Chronology
    (pp. xix-2)
  5. Former Resident Is Writer and Teacher in Massachusetts
    (pp. 3-5)
    Corinne Peace

    “Talent is cheap. Discipline is the thing.”

    This is the appraisal of the writing game by Andre Dubus, author of the novel, The Lieutenant, and a McNeese State College graduate, class of 1958. He is the son of Mrs. H. Moss Watkins of Lake Charles.

    Dubus has had a number of short stories published also. He has sold his third story to the New Yorker which will be published this summer.

    During a visit to Lake Charles last week, Dubus said he was particularly pleased that one of his short stories, “If They Knew Yvonne,” has been selected for inclusion...

  6. Conversation with Andre Dubus
    (pp. 6-11)
    Christopher Caldwell, Adam Cherson and Andre Dubus

    Andre Dubus was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in 1936. After graduating from McNeese State University, he served in the United States Marine Corps. He did graduate work at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he later held an assistantship. He now teaches literature and creative writing at Bradford College in Bradford, Massachusetts, where he lives with his family. Mr. Dubus is the author of three collections of short stories, Separate Flights, 1975; Adultery and Other Choices, 1978; Finding A Girl in America, 1980 (all published by David R. Godine, Boston); and one novel, The Lieutenant, 1967, Dial Press....

  7. A Conversation with Andre Dubus
    (pp. 12-31)
    Dev Hathaway and Andre Dubus

    Andre Dubus is the author of a novel, The Lieutenant, published by the Dial Press; and three collections of short stories, Separate Flights, Adultery and Other Choices, and Finding a Girl in America, all published by David R. Godine, who will publish his fourth collection The Times Are Never So Bad, this spring. Dubus and his wife, Peggy Rambach, live, write, and teach in Bradford, Massachusetts.

    The following conversation with BWR Editor Dev Hathaway was recorded in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

    D.H. Let’s start with the state of the short story today. I was reading Hortense Calisher’s introduction to The Best American...

  8. Andre Dubus Interview with Kay Bonetti
    (pp. 32-58)
    Kay Bonetti and Andre Dubus

    DUBUS: I suppose, as with all autobiography, you begin by writing about something that was painful to you, and then by the time you write the story, certain actions have changed because the characters become themselves and they’re no longer you, so by the time the story is over—and each of those Paul Clement stories is based on an actual incident which was painful for me—you no longer remember which really happened, and you end up having a different perspective.

    BONETTI: So those Paul stories are autobiographical?

    DUBUS: They’re about as autobiographical as I ever get. When I...

  9. A Redneck Intellectual at Home in New England
    (pp. 59-62)
    Mimi Read

    Andre Dubus doesn’t buy the one about Southern-born writers being burdened with the job of understanding the South. His novellas and short stories are about men, women, and children who could be anywhere as the subtle currents of emotion pass between them.

    As it happens, they usually are in generic New England, chain-smoking cigarettes or committing adulteries or having good days at the beach, but with minor adjustments of geographical details they could just as easily be inhabitants of some small town in, say, modern Nebraska.

    Among the novelists, poets, and critics of New England, Dubus is famous for writing...

  10. Interview with Andre Dubus
    (pp. 63-68)
    Robert Dahlin and Andre Dubus

    When Andre Dubus laughs, the sound comes from the back of his mouth, not from his bearded throat or his rounded belly. A self-consciousness sounds in this rather shallow bark of amusement, and an edge of wariness shows in his eyes. It’s not that Dubus is shy, far from it. He is happily loquacious and confidently tosses writers’ names from Cyril Connelly to Tolstoy into the conversation, stirring them into a verbal bouillabaisse of literary allusions. It’s simply that Dubus seems more at ease with talking than listening, and sometimes he’d rather not be interrupted.

    He teaches four classes in...

  11. The Outrageous Andre Dubus
    (pp. 69-75)
    Jesse Kornbluth

    “I don’t know how I feel till I hold that steel.”

    O Lord, I think at the end of that first sentence of “The Pretty Girl,” the novella which opens Andre Dubus’s We Don’t Live Here Anymore, what’s more unpromising than a weight lifter with a penchant for interior rhyme? A paragraph of this and I will abandon the book.

    Only I don’t. Because what follows in that paragraph is as precise a description of the pleasures of pumping iron as I have ever read—and not just emotionally and physically accurate, but something else, something that, in modern fiction,...

  12. Our Dinners with Andre
    (pp. 76-88)
    Amy Schildhouse

    Andre Dubus was driving home late one humid night last July on U.S. Route 93 to Haverhill, the small, blue-collar town north of Boston where he lives. Dubus was coming off a string of summer writers’ conferences, workshops, and readings. He was tired, but he felt good. David R. Godine, publisher, would bring out his seventh collection of short stories and novellas, The Last Worthless Evening, in November. His wife, short-story writer Peggy Rambach, was pregnant with their second child. He’d retired from full-time teaching at Bradford College, had just won a Guggenheim, and he planned to spend the year...

  13. Interview with Andre Dubus
    (pp. 89-102)
    Patrick Samway and Andre Dubus

    Q. If you had to look at your life, what key events do you think were important in your career as a writer?

    A. I have to think a long time about that. The word “events” already has me thrown off. I’ve written for so long that I don’t even remember a time when my main life was not interior. I’ve always told myself stories, even as a boy; I wasn’t in the stories, but I always assumed everybody thought I was. I never thought of writing books, though I read a good deal. I guess the key event for...

  14. Accident Robbed Author of Desire to Write
    (pp. 103-106)
    Stacey A. Chase

    Author Andre Dubus doesn’t remember the moment of the car’s impact. A hospital nurse told him no one ever does.

    He remembers feeling calm, waving at the car to stop; believing that it would. He remembers the last words of the young man beside him who was killed.

    Now, he’s trying to remember how to write.

    Dubus, forty-nine, of Haverhill, spoke recently of the accident that robber him twice: of a left leg and the energy to write.

    “I imagine myself writing and walking, but I don’t have much confidence in that anymore,” Dubus said. “I don’t have much confidence...

  15. An Interview with Andre Dubus
    (pp. 107-116)
    Stacey A. Chase and Andre Dubus

    When Andre Dubus and I first met, he gave me three words of advice: Piss on it.

    The “it” was anything that prevented me from writing—bills, errands, my job; all the annoyances of daily living I complained got in my way. Piss on it—that was Dubus’s encouragement to me.

    Or, rather, Piss on it was Dubus venting his own frustrations in the form of counsel to a younger writer.

    We met in December 1986—only five months after Dubus’s left leg was amputated at the knee, and his right leg crushed into uselessness, when he was accidentally run...

  16. Short-Story Writer’s Words Flow on the Page—and Off
    (pp. 117-119)
    Regina Hackett

    Watching TV one night, short-story writer Andre Dubus saw squid mating in warm water. The spasms of their tentacles attracted sharks they failed to see in time.

    “There’s a lesson here,” Dubus said. “Naked love is dangerous.”

    Like the late poet Delmore Schwartz, whom Saul Bellow once called the “Mozart of conversation,” Dubus talks almost as well as he writes. Talking to him, even long-distance by telephone, is like being held in the paws of a benign but enormous bear. The listener is not the leader.

    Dubus will preside over the lucky Seattleites who come to hear him Wednesday night...

  17. Andre Dubus’s Knuckler Keeps Him in the Game
    (pp. 120-129)
    Tim McCarthy

    In the darkest hours of a July morning in 1986, writer Andre Dubus stopped to help some accident victims on a Massachusetts interstate north of Boston. Fearing the worst and looking for more hands to deal with it, Dubus tried to flag another car down. The driver bashed into him, nearly cut him in half.

    Dubus came out of the ordeal with one leg a stump and the other a moribund appendage that he has to keep elevated so it will not turn black with clotting blood. That physical mutilation of a boisterous man was more than enough, but his...

  18. Profile in Courage
    (pp. 130-132)
    Susan Larson

    Until five years ago, Andre Dubus spent his days in perfect writerly fashion—writing, teaching, caring for a growing family, and crafting wonderful short stories that showed how even the simplest everyday decision can be an act of faith. Now he spends his days in an unending personal demonstration that even the smallest real-life act can be an example of incredible courage.

    Dubus’s life was changed forever in 1986, when he stopped to help two motorists in distress and was struck by an oncoming car. The accident resulted in the loss of one leg above the knee and the use...

  19. Andre Dubus
    (pp. 133-143)
    Eleanor Wachtel and Andre Dubus

    In one of Andre Dubus’s short stories, a mother tells her son, “We don’t have to live great lives, we just have to understand and survive the ones we’ve got.” Pain, vulnerability, and hard-won strength are the veins that run just below the surface of Dubus’s fiction, set in the blue-collar world of waitresses and bartenders, mechanics, and laborers. Infused with compassion, his stories and novellas revolve around relationships between men and women, the Catholic faith, and the loss of permanence.

    After eight books of fiction, including Adultery and Other Choices (1977), Voices from the Moon (1984), and The Last...

  20. “Into the Melody”: A Conversation with Andre Dubus
    (pp. 144-191)
    Olivia Carr Edenfield and Andre Dubus

    Edenfield: I’ll start with some general questions and then move through Selected Stories, story by story, if that’s all right.

    Dubus: There’ll be some I won’t remember specific things about.

    Edenfield: Thomas Kennedy [in his book on your stories] says that there is an existential Christian vision at the core of your fiction. Would you talk about that?

    Dubus: That’s hard for me to do because I never understood what that meant. [Laughs] That’s the truth. I said this year at some reading, “I never have known what Existentialism meant. Every time someone defined it, I didn’t understand it.” Jack...

  21. A Conversation with Andre Dubus
    (pp. 192-207)
    Lori Ambacher and Andre Dubus

    Andre Dubus is a fiction writer and essayist, and the author of nine books, including Adultery and Other Choices, The Last Worthless Evening, and Broken Vessels. As a young man, he was a captain in the Marine Corps. Later he taught at Bradford College in Massachusetts. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a MacArthur Fellow, and was the 1991 winner of the PEN/Malamud prize for Short Fiction. In 1986, Dubus stopped to help two people on the highway who’d been involved in a car accident and was himself hit by a car. As a result of the accident, he is...

  22. An Interview with Andre Dubus
    (pp. 208-217)
    John Smolens and Andre Dubus

    I first met Andre Dubus in 1970, while he was teaching literature at Bradford College, which is north of Boston in the Merrimack Valley. At the time, Dubus had recently published a novel, The Lieutenant, and was working on the stories that would eventually become his first collection, Separate Flights.

    For years the stories, novellas, and collections kept coming and Dubus’s reputation grew; as the Village Voice said, “Like some of the most satisfying storytellers of the past (the Russians come to mind—Dubus has been compared to Chekhov), he is munificent, spinning out whole lifetimes …”

    In July of...

  23. Interview with Andre Dubus
    (pp. 218-229)
    Tom Grimes and Andre Dubus

    Andre Dubus lives in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and is the author of nine books of fiction, as well as Broken Vessels, a collection of essays. He has received the PEN/Malamud Award, the Jean Stein Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Boston Globe’s first annual Laurence L. Winship Award, and fellowships from both the Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations.

    Mr. Dubus jumped directly into his thoughts on writing fiction and gave them to us at length. He later took questions from the young writers who had gathered to hear him speak. But, we feel the way to enjoy the...

  24. Interview
    (pp. 230-246)
    Jennifer Levasseur, Kevin Rabalais and Andre Dubus

    Jennifer Levasseur and Kevin Rabalais: For more than thirty years you have been publishing short stories almost exclusively. Your first published book, however, The Lieutenant, was a novel. In the past, you’ve said that book would have been better as a novella, even though it has all the characteristics of a novel. What would you have changed?

    Andre Dubus: I looked at The Lieutenant in the eighties because a small press reprinted it, and I had to read the galleys. I wouldn’t have cut it then because they wanted to print it as it was, and because I couldn’t figure...

  25. Interview with Andre Dubus
    (pp. 247-248)
    Greg Garrett and Andre Dubus

    Greg Garrett: Many of the stories in Dancing After Hours are told from a female point of view. Do you ever worry about taking on that challenge of writing across the gender line?

    Andre Dubus: Writers should write the stories that come to them. I don’t think it’s experimental to write from the point of view of a woman. I think it’s just imagining.

    GG: Can you tell us a little about your writing habits? The where and when of your writing?

    AD: I’m retired now, so it doesn’t matter when I write. I can get up at noon and...

  26. Appendix: List of Additional Interviews
    (pp. 249-250)
  27. Index
    (pp. 251-257)