Authors: Andre Dubus

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American short-story writer and essayist

Identity: Catholic

Author Works

Short Fiction:

Separate Flights, 1975

Adultery and Other Choices, 1977

Finding a Girl in America, 1980

The Times Are Never So Bad, 1983

The Last Worthless Evening, 1986

Selected Stories, 1988

Dancing After Hours, 1996

In the Bedroom: Seven Stories, 2002

Long Fiction:

The Lieutenant, 1967

Voices from the Moon, 1984

We Don’t Live Here Anymore: The Novellas of Andre Dubus, 1984

Nonfiction:

Broken Vessels, 1991

Meditations from a Movable Chair: Essays, 1998

Biography

Andre Dubus (duh-BYOOS) was born and raised in the bayou country of Louisiana and educated at the Christian Brothers’ School in Lafayette, Louisiana. Dubus would remain a devout Roman Catholic throughout his life. After earning a bachelor of arts degree in English in 1958 from McNeese State College in Lafayette, Dubus married Patricia Lowe and joined the United States Marine Corps. Four children were born to the couple during the five years Dubus was in the Marines. His Louisiana upbringing, his Roman Catholism, and his experience in the Marines were all to figure in his later short stories.{$I[A]Dubus, Andre}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Dubus, Andre}{$I[geo]CATHOLIC;Dubus, Andre}{$I[tim]1936;Dubus, Andre}

In 1963 Dubus published his first short story, “The Intruder,” in The Sewanee Review, a prestigious literary journal. In the same year, he ended his period of service with the Marines, and in 1964 he moved his young family to Iowa City, Iowa, where he entered the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He graduated with a master of fine arts degree and in 1966 moved the family to New England to teach at Bradford College in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Dubus was to teach at Bradford College for eighteen years and to remain in Haverhill for the rest of his life.

A first novel, The Lieutenant, was published in 1967. The novel is drawn from his experience in the Marine Corps. In 1970 Dubus and his wife Patricia were divorced. The divorce was relatively amicable, but the difficulties and pain of divorce for children and fathers became another recurring theme in Dubus’s fiction.

Dubus’s stories continued to be published in literary journals, and in 1975 the Boston publishing house David Godine published his first collection of stories, Separate Flights. The collection was a critical success. His story “If They Knew Yvonne” was included in The Best American Short Stories 1970. Another short story, “Cadence,” was included in The Best American Short Stories 1976. Dubus received his first Guggenheim Award the same year. In 1977 Godine published a second short story collection, Adultery and Other Choices. His stories continued to explore the themes of Roman Catholicism and the ethics of ordinary life, marriage, and divorce. His realism and craftsmanship were admired by critics and welcomed by the public.

Dubus continued to teach, write, and publish. He married Peggy Rambach in 1979, and in 1982 their daughter Cadence was born. Through the early 1980’s, several collections of short stories and novellas were published by Godine: Finding a Girl in America, The Times Are Never So Bad, We Don’t Live Here Anymore, and The Last Worthless Evening. Godine published Voices from the Moon as a novel, although it was later included in Selected Stories. Dubus retired from teaching at Bradford College in 1984.

The watershed incident in Dubus’s life was a devastating car crash in July, 1986. While driving back to Haverhill from Boston after midnight, Dubus stopped on the highway to aid two motorists who had hit a motorcycle. He attempted to flag down an approaching car, but the car slammed into them. One of the motorists was killed, and Dubus’s legs were crushed and his back was broken. One of his legs was amputated above the knee, and the other was so badly damaged that it was useless. Dubus spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. His daughter Madeleine was born after the incident. The strain of caring for two young children and an invalid husband who was severely depressed was too great for his wife Peggy, and she left Dubus in 1987.

Dubus was lonely, handicapped, depressed, and burdened by enormous medical bills. During this time he was unable to write. Friends and fellow writers rallied around him and raised money through a series of readings. Then he won a series of awards, including a second Guggenheim in 1986 and a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award. He gradually rose out of his depression and began to hold writing seminars in his home. Still unable to write fiction, he looked within himself and began to write essays.

Broken Vessels, a collection of essays, was published in 1991 and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction. A new collection of short stories (many of them previously published) Dancing After Hours, came out in 1996 and won the Rea Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. A second collection of essays, Meditations from a Movable Chair, was published in 1998. On February 24, 1999, Dubus, dead of a heart attack, was discovered in his home by a friend.

Andre Dubus is known for the realism and humanism of his short stories, for multidimensional characters and a complex view of the human condition. He is admired for his storytelling craft, for his strong opening lines, and for his attention to tangible detail. His major themes include the complicated sexual politics of the Catholic Church and issues surrounding reconciling the demands of the spiritual life with the complex reality of daily life. His subject matter falls roughly into the categories of childhood and youth; stories of military life; violence, revenge, and forgiveness; and fathers, marriage, and divorce. He is identified as a Catholic writer, and as a southern writer, for in spite of the Massachusetts settings of most of his mature fiction, he carried his heritage as a Louisiana Catholic throughout his life.

BibliographyBreslin, John B. “Playing Out of the Patterns of Sin and Grace: The Catholic Imagination of Andre Dubus.” Commonweal 115 (December 2, 1988): 652-656. An interesting analysis of the Catholic themes in Dubus’s literature, written for a lay audience. Breslin focuses particularly on Dubus’s early novel, The Lieutenant, the trilogy of stories dealing with Hank Allison (“We Don’t Live Here Anymore,” “Adultery,” and “Finding a Girl in America”), and “A Father’s Story.”Cocchiarale, Michael. “The Complicated Catholicism of Andre Dubus.” In Songs of the New South: Writing Contemporary Louisiana, edited by Suzanne D. Green and Lisa Abney. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001. Discusses Dubus’s writing in the context of Catholicism and its role in the complex morality of his characters.Feeney, Joseph J. “Poised for Fame: Andre Dubus at Fifty.” America 155 (November 15, 1986): 296-299. Using the occasion of Dubus’s fiftieth birthday, the author provides a general introduction to the man, his writing, and his major themes. Written for an audience he assumes to be generally unfamiliar with Dubus’s fiction, this article presents the major themes of Dubus’s fiction without exploring them in depth.Ferriss, Lucy. “Andre Dubus: ‘Never Truly Members.’” In Southern Writers at Century’s End, edited by Jeffery J. Folks and James A. Perkins. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1997. Discusses several short stories with a focus on Dubus’s concerns with Roman Catholic sexual politics, particularly in the context of his women characters and his connection with the literary tradition of the South.Kennedy, Thomas E. Andre Dubus: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1988. The first full-length study of Dubus’s fiction to be published, this volume is by far the most helpful work for someone interested in Dubus and his fiction. Kennedy groups Dubus’s stories together by their thematic content and analyzes them in separate chapters, which are each devoted to one theme. Also included are other critical evaluations, two interviews with Dubus, an extensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources, and a helpfully designed index. If there is a flaw, it is that Kennedy sometimes seems too devoted to Dubus’s work to accurately evaluate its occasional shortcomings.Lesser, Ellen. “True Confession: Andre Dubus Talks Straight.” Review of Selected Stories. Village Voice 37 (January 17, 1989): 56. Lesser claims that “Dubus writes stories like a pilot pushing the envelope–continually testing fiction’s effective limits.” She praises his fiction for its deliberate unfashionableness and for its unsimplified Catholic sensibility.Lyons, Bonnie, and Bill Oliver, eds. “Andre Dubus: Passion Is Better.” In Passion and Craft: Conversations with Notable Writers. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. A collection of literary interviews. Dubus discusses his themes and methods of writing the short story.Miner, Madone. “Jumping from One Heart to Another: How Andre Dubus Writes About Women.” Critique 39 (Fall, 1997): 18-31. Discusses three stories–“Anna,” “Leslie in California,” and “Rose”–in terms of Dubus’s ability to write empathetically from a woman’s perspective, to speak with a woman’s voice about women’s experience, while still retaining his “maleness.”Rowe, Anne E. “Andre Dubus.” In Contemporary Fiction Writers of the South, edited by Joseph M. Flora and Robert Bain. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993. A general introduction to such Dubus themes as the passage from childhood to the adult world, failed friendships and marriages, and the individual’s search for a meaningful center. Also includes an analytical survey of criticism of Dubus’s fiction.Todd, David Yandell. “An Interview with Andre Dubus.” Yale Review 86 (July, 1998): 89-110. Dubus candidly discusses his decision to become a writer and the relationship between his life, his stories, and the authors who have most influenced him. He also considers what motivates his characters, creates their conflicts, and provides them with spiritual and moral significance.Yarbrough, Steve. “Andre Dubus: From Detached Incident to Compressed Novel.” Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction 28 (Fall, 1986); 19-27. Argues that Dubus’s short stories can be categorized in three different ways, of which the largest category is the compressed novel, which follows the course of characters’ lives for several years. This article focuses on a number of short stories, including “The Doctor,” “The Dark Men,” “Townies,” “In My Life,” “Separate Flights,” and “The Fat Girl.”
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