Andre Dubus is considered by many (myself included) to be one of America’s greatest short story writers. So why haven’t you heard of him? Precisely because he was a short story writer. While some novelists sell millions of books and become known figures, those working in short fiction are almost always ignored by the greater public. It’s unfortunate, but it is reality. The sad thing is, with Dubus, it’s the greater public who is missing out.
In the July/August issue of Poets and Writers, Joshua Bodwell contributes an essay, “The Art of Reading Andre Dubus: We Don’t Have To Live Great Lives.” The title indicates much of a what a reader needs to know about Dubus: real people, real situations, real emotion–and tough writing. Dubus may have been a writer, but he lived in the same world that you do. His work reveals the gravity found there.
The Hangover grew up in Plaistow, New Hampshire, just across the state line from Haverhill, MA, where Dubus taught at small Bradford College. The local paper, The Haverhill Gazette, frequently mentioned publications of and readings by Dubus. I was a somewhat well-read youth, but as foolish as any teenager. I saw that French name and pictured a Euro-weenie in a beret writing about wine-drinking fops. I wondered, “How good can this guy be if he’s teaching at Bradford?” I never bothered to pick up one of his books.
I finally read Dubus as an adult when Tom Bailey assigned “A Father’s Story” for a writing class I was taking. I went out and bought Andre Dubus: Selected Stories. After that first story, I started at the beginning and whipped through the collection. Dubus’ characters were people I knew. Both literally and figuratively, they drove down streets I’d traveled, lived in houses I recognized, and drank in bars I’d frequented. It didn’t take me long to realize that I’d been a supreme jackass.
The Hangover urges you not to make the same mistake. If you’ve read Dubus, pick up Poets and Writers and read Bodwell’s essay. If one of Dubus’s books hasn’t made it onto your shelf, go out and get Selected Stories. That you’ll be entertained is an understatement.