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Conversations with Andre Dubus

Olivia Carr Edenfield

Publication Year: 2013

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.

This collection of interviews traces his career beginning in 1967 with the publication of his novel The Lieutenant, to his final interview given right before his death February 24, 1999. In between are conversations that focus on his shift to essay writing during his long recovery period as well as those that celebrate his return to fiction with the publication of "The Colonel's Wife," in 1993. Dubus would share as well stories surrounding his Louisiana childhood, his three marriages, the writers who influenced him, and his deep Catholic faith.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction

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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...

Chronology

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pp. xix-xxiv

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Former Resident Is Writer and Teacher in Massachusetts

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pp. 1-5

...University of Northern Iowa. Dubus, in talking about the necessity of a writer disciplining himself, said, “I write five pages every morning in longhand five days a week. I throw most of it away, but I keep writing. It’s my life.” He teaches modern fiction and creative writing at Bradford Junior College in Bradford, Massachusetts. He said that his classes are in the afternoon, so after he has done his writing in the morning, he goes out and runs or jogs for about five miles...

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Conversation with Andre Dubus

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pp. 6-11

...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...

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A Conversation with Andre Dubus

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pp. 12-31

...No, certainly not all of them, but many I read now. I was at Amherst once for a prose festival. Two of the other writers there were talking about the short story and the novel, saying that when you start working on a novel, you’d better forget about that perfect sentence—you’d never get a novel done. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it seems to me that a lot of them read that way. Maybe that’s why some of my favorite novels are like Kate...

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Andre Dubus Interview with Kay Bonetti

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pp. 32-58

...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...

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A Redneck Intellectual at Home in New England

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pp. 59-62

...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...

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Interview with Andre Dubus

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pp. 63-68

...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...

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The Outrageous Andre Dubus

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pp. 69-75

...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, is actually astonishing. For though Ray Yarborough is a bartender—a man who doesn’t have much of a future in a white-collar world—he’s not stupid. He can’t be patronized. He knows what he feels and why. And he can tell us, directly and without artifice...

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Our Dinners with Andre

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pp. 76-88

...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...

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Interview with Andre Dubus

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pp. 89-102

...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 me was when I started thinking in my junior...

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Accident Robbed Author of Desire to Write

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pp. 103-106

...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...

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An Interview with Andre Dubus

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pp. 107-116

...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 down by a car while assisting two motorists stranded on Massachusetts Interstate-93. (One of the motorists was killed by the car.) Daily living was all Dubus could manage then. And even that was difficult. Two years later, in January 1989, Dubus was missing his family more than his legs. He seemed, in fact, to have traded one tragedy for another...

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Short-Story Writer’s Words Flow on the Page—and Off

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pp. 117-119

...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...

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Andre Dubus’s Knuckler Keeps Him in the Game

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pp. 120-129

...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...

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Profile in Courage

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pp. 130-132

...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...

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Andre Dubus

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pp. 133-143

...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...

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“Into the Melody”: A Conversation with Andre Dubus

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pp. 144-191

...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 [Herlihy, Dubus’s personal assistant] told me “Here’s a definition you can use: ‘The existentialist believes that he is doomed to choice.” I said, “What the hell did people ever think that they were doomed to?” So I guess that’s my answer to that. This was...

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A Conversation with Andre Dubus

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pp. 192-207

...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 confined to a wheelchair. He writes every day, exercises while listening to opera, attends Mass regularly...

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An Interview with Andre Dubus

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pp. 208-217

...“Out Like a Lamb” touches a religious nerve that is evident in much of your work. Early in the essay you talk about growing up with the image of humans being a sweet, lovable flock of sheep in the arms of a tender, caring Christ. But as a result of caring for sheep on a farm in New Hampshire, you concluded, “We were stupid helpless brutes, and without constant watching we would foolishly destroy ourselves...

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Interview with Andre Dubus

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pp. 218-229

...I know as well as every laboring writer how hard [writing] is. I’ve been writing for forty years now, thank God, and I’m lucky I’m still around. I mean I was hit by a moving car on the highway—I was standing up, the last time I ever did that without assistance, but I’m probably one of the few people alive who’ve been hit by a car on the highway (laughs) and I still am not happy unless I write. I have a friend, two friends, the woman is a writer and her husband is a math teacher. He was over watching a ball game....

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Interview

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pp. 230-246

...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 how to change it. I don’t remember that novel, but I suspect I could have compressed some of it. I could not at twenty-nine have compressed more, though. If I had written it twelve years later, maybe I could have. Maybe I would have had fewer scenes. I couldn’t have made it twenty pages, but maybe one hundred and twenty. I was learning while writing that novel...

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Interview with Andre Dubus

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pp. 247-248

...I don’t use real people. I did once, when I was young. I used a friend of mine. But I realized that as well as I knew this guy, I didn’t know him at all. I don’t know if anybody knows how any body else feels. I have no idea what it feels like to be my kids. I have no idea what it felt like to be my parents. I do use bodies I’ve seen, like you might use a paper doll. But for me the character becomes real on the page through the imagination and through whatever gift it comes from...

Appendix: List of Additional Interviews

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pp. 249-250

Index

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pp. 251-257


E-ISBN-13: 9781621039471
E-ISBN-10: 1621039471
Print-ISBN-13: 9781617037856

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Literary Conversations Series

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Subject Headings

  • Dubus, Andre, 1959-.
  • Authors, American -- 20th century -- Interviews.
  • Fiction -- Authorship.
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