Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Selected Stories by Andre Dubus

Men come to terms with justice

This collection features stories written throughout Andre Dubus’s long career. A theme is the stoicism of working class men. Another is the vulnerability of women and what these stoic men are supposed to do about it. Virtually all the stories take place in the industrial towns north of Boston. They are mostly about men, but always about families. “Rose” is about a guy in bar talking to an older woman who has quite a story to tell. A sad story he can do nothing about, putting him in mind of another sad story. “A Father’s Story” is about a decent man, who, with the quiet support of those close to him, takes a matter of extreme injustice into his own hands. “Voices from the Moon” is a novella about a family with an unusual problem.

Some of the stories were very good and some not so good. The good ones, with their simple sentences and skillful juxtapositions of two apparently jarring images work well and demonstrate a mastery of the well timed emotional effect. For the most part, the descriptions are beautiful and meditative. There's a somewhat creepy fascination with young women – wanting to protect them or wanting to control them. Cuckoldry and its pleasures and pains.

In “The Pretty Girl,” Dubus lulls the reader into the homey rhythm. Then he inserts words like “rape” and “pistol.” The surprise of violence in the middle of the mundane.  “Voices from the Moon” is a novella that combines Dubus’s obsessions with a straight faced silliness. That one seemed to take forever to get through.  At times the bad stories were unintentionally funny, like a bad Hemingway imitation. The ritualistic drinking of the tequila, for example, made me laugh.

Often the stories often felt like they were written in another era- because they were. The unquestioned gulf between the roles of the sexes. The vanishing of the shoe factories and local bars where the characters worked. Also, the surveillance camera society of today would render most of these plots irrelevant.The stories felt quaint and a little dated, then along came “Killing,” which had me on the edge of my seat.

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