Selected Stories

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These twenty-three stories represent the best work of one of the finest and most emotionally revealing writers in America. Andre Dubus treats his characters—a bereaved father stalking his son's killer; a woman crying alone by her television late at night; a devout teenager writing in the coils of faith and sexuality; a father's story of limitless love for his daughter—with respect and compassion. He turns fiction into an act of witness. Books ...
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These twenty-three stories represent the best work of one of the finest and most emotionally revealing writers in America. Andre Dubus treats his characters—a bereaved father stalking his son's killer; a woman crying alone by her television late at night; a devout teenager writing in the coils of faith and sexuality; a father's story of limitless love for his daughter—with respect and compassion. He turns fiction into an act of witness. Books by Andre Dubus also in Vintage Contemporaries paperback: Dancing After Hours.

"Like some of the most satisfying storytellers of the past (Dubus has been compared to Chekhov), he is munificent, spinning out whole lifetimes and recounting events from many characters' viewpoints. For the lyricism and directness of his language, the richness and precision of his observations and the generosity of his vision, he is among the best."—Village Voice

"Dubus's characters resemble those of Raymond Carver...but the stories stand alone in their idiosyncratic spiritual cast, occasionally religious, more often expressive of devotion to the people he lives among."—New York Times Book Review

This collection of 23 stories represents Dubus's best work over 15 years and includes two pieces never before published in book form.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
A Father's Story

Over Independence Day weekend in 1985, during the early days of my practice marriage, on the back deck of a huge, off-season ski chalet somewhere in West Virginia, while surrounded by skinny-dipping mismatched couples in a tiny adjacent lake and naked mismatched couples in the hot tub downstairs, I fell in love. My then-wife still had her clothes on.

I fell in love that weekend with two men, actually, one of whom doesn't exist. The first thing they both said to me was "My name is Luke Ripley, and this is what I call my life."

A paragraph later, Luke says, "My real life is the one nobody every talks about anymore, except Father Paul LeBoeuf, another old buck."

This love affair started on page 72 of a book, 1984's The Best American Short Stories. It was the first of these I ever bought; John Updike, a hero of mine, was that year's guest editor. The story was called "A Father's Story." It had been published in a place called The Black Warrior Review, and the person who wrote it was named Andre Dubus.

The story did things I didn't know a story could. It had a taut plot that turned on violence -- Luke, a divorced father of three, must decide what do when the youngest, his only daughter, accidentally hits a man on a country road with her car -- and yet the story was at the same time quiet, sincerely religious, and character-driven. It was emotional without being sappy. It ends, of all ridiculous things, with a dialogue between Luke and God, and manages against all logic to make you think that's the only way this story could end. I was not a father, not Catholic, not divorced, not "a big-gutted, gray-haired guy," and had no immediate desire to be any of these, but somehow I identified with Luke.

I remember finishing the story and thinking, This is the sort of story I want to write. I looked up. People in the lake were shouting at me. I called back that I was a shy and repressed Midwestern boy. Inside the chalet, my then-wife played cards at the kitchen table with three other clothed people. I closed the book and started drinking. A masterpiece is not a "sort of story." It is a strange thing that defies categories and does the impossible. I thought maybe I should quit writing fiction. I knew I'd never write anything as good as that story.

* * *

A year later, Andre Dubus stopped on the shoulder of I-93 to help a disabled motorist. As he was saving that woman's life, he was hit by an oncoming car. One leg was amputated, the other was crushed. He spent years in painful physical therapy and severe depression. Eventually, he made it through all this (and wrote about it in the books Broken Vessels and Meditations from a Movable chair), but he didn't write another short story for almost a decade. He died in February, at the age of 62.

Andre Dubus had a son about my age. His name is Andre Dubus III, and at about the time I first started to read his father's work, he, too, would have been starting out as a writer. If I was intimidated by what Andre Dubus did in "A Father's Story," I can't imagine what his own son must have felt.

From what I've read, father and son loved the bejesus out of each other.

Andre Dubus lived to see his son publish three books, including his breakthrough book, the novel House of Sand and Fog. But he died before seeing HOuse's panoply of rave reviews and its much-deserved National Book Award nomination.

"I think if I were to read something by Ernest Hemingway III," Dubus III recently told Barnes &, "it would be hard not to think of The Sun Also Rises, for example. I am hopeful, though, that over the years our work will find their place, and the confusion will not be as understandably acute as it sometimes is right now."

At this point, House has probably sold more copies and certainly made more money than any of the 11 books his father wrote.

* * *

Three years after I read that first Andre Dubus story, I was thrilled to see that his Selected Stories were coming out. I had a son about to be born. I bought a hardback copy I could not afford.

As I read the stories and novellas in that book, I found myself wondering why Dubus didn't have as large a readership as another of my heroes, Raymond Carver. Both took as one of their chief subjects adultery and wrote masterfully about it (Dubus, it seems, writes better about the hardest truths of actually being married). Both wrote about male violence without seeming to be secretly in love with it (Dubus, however, is more realistic about its seductiveness). Both wrote in a direct, blunt, astonishingly honed style about blue-collar characters. Both were among American literature's most spiritual writers. Neither ever wrote a novel.

Carver, though, had an agnostic's spirituality, which may have broader appeal than Dubus's focused (but not at all didactic) Catholicism. Dubus, too, practically specialized in novellas. Why this is the least commercial thing a prose writer can write, I don't understand. Yes, it's hard to get them published in magazines. But there's grand pleasure to be had in 100-page stories that give you everything 400-page ones do. Dubus does this as well as any recent writer you can name.

He lived a rough, colorful life that, from afar, he seemed to embrace with great joie de vivre. He joined the Marines, became an officer, and began publishing short stories; after a conflict with a commanding officer, Dubus resigned and went to the Iowa Writer's Workshop. His work was slow in coming and published in respectable but not for the most part lucrative places. He worked blue-collar jobs and wrote in spiral notebooks and was married three times. Most of his books were published by David R. Godine: again, a tony but not lucrative place to publish. Eventually he made a living, as most of us eventually do, by teaching writing. He became widely admired by other writers and won a MacArthur fellowship (the so-called genius grant). After his accident and rehabilitation, he returned to fiction with a sublime collection called Dancing After Hours.

Today my son is threatening to become a writer. I am divorced and remarried, to a woman who is Catholic. I am not quite big-gutted and gray-haired, but you can see it from where I stand. Today I reread "A Father's Story" for the first time since my daughter was born, and I found myself scared to death and in love again with Andre Dubus.

—Mark Winegardner

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Dubus, known as one of our most accomplished storytellers, has in his own life recently experienced some of the terrible things that customarily happen in his fiction (last year a car accident cost him a leg). In this fine collection of 23 stories, an iron-pumping hothead terrorizes and rapes his ex-wife; (``The Pretty Girl''); a sadistic Marine sergeant destroys a green recruit; (``Cadence''); a drunken youth kicks his girlfriend to death and leaves her body in the snow. (``Townies''). ``New Hampshire is also a redneck state,'' observes one character. Yet the disorderly lives of these small-town or suburban denizens are rendered in a calm, richly textured, minutely detailed style. Dubus gets under the skin of a 19-year-old baseball pitcher whose wife ditches him for her dentist, a waitress emotionally scarred by her husband's death in Korea, an obese woman who rationalizes her secret gorging on sweets, a divorcing disc jockey coming to terms with his misogyny. Many of these tales are set in his favorite fictional territory northwest of Boston, yet an equal number span the map from Virginia to Texas to California. With unflinching candor Dubus explores the uneasy accommodations of marriage and adultery, the self-deceptions of middle age and the terrors of childhood. (Nov . )
Library Journal
What John Cheever did for upper-middle-class suburbs the equally talented Dubus does for the blue-collar manufacturing towns of Massachusetts. The most compelling of these finely crafted stories depicts the inhabitants of fading communities struggling to maintain stability as factories close and customary ways disappear. They don't often succeed. ``Townies'' juxtaposes the ideal of a posh women's college with harsh local realities. A young couple in ``Anna'' robs a drugstore to achieve a pathetic parody of material success. Characters commit violence for love or revenge without hope of redemption. Often graphic, never unbelievable, the tales are dense with the dark side of the American dream. Recommended. See below for review of a work by Dubus's son. Ed. Starr E. Smith, Georgetown Univ. Lib., Washington, D.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679725336
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/17/1989
  • Edition description: 1st Vintage Contemporaries ed
  • Pages: 476

Meet the Author

Award-winning author Andre Dubus (1936–1999) has been hailed as one of the best American short story writers of the twentieth century. Dubus’s collections of short fiction include Separate Flights (1975), Adultery & Other Choices (1977), and Dancing After Hours (1996), which was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. Another collection, Finding a Girl in America, features the story “Killings,” which was adapted into the critically acclaimed film In the Bedroom (2001), starring Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson, and Marisa Tomei. 

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2007

    Amazing truths

    These stories are so real. The characters are described with intimacy, compassion, and truth. Dubus has such a feel for what is in the human heart. I cried several times while reading the stories. They aren't easy, but they endure.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    An American Master

    Contrary to one of the anonymous reviews below, these are moral stories in the highest sense of the word. Dubus creates real-life characters who must make difficult moral choices. He does not manipulate his characters by providing them with easy or conventional alternatives. He allows his characters to live, and in confronting loneliness, religion, adultery, and other choices, the characters affirm the value of life. Readers looking for cheap uplift, sentimentality, or slam-bang plot contrivances should look elsewhere. Those wanting to see how psychological and social complexity can be created in remarkably few pages should start with this career-spanning retrospective by a true American master.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2006

    Best book I've read in years

    This book is awesome. It's very realistic and in touch with people's emotions. Anyone who cannot appreciate such deep emotional stories is emotionally unattached. Not for the narrow-minded reader.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2002

    Dubus's Folly

    Dubus alienates his readers by placing them in settings with promiscuous women who are so degrading to themselves that they exemplify the plight of the whore. This book is trash and anyone who wants to read about selfish whores can do so. This book is terrible and I will NEVER read anything by Dubus. 'Killings,' too, is not as great as it is supposed to be. The screenwriters for In the Bedroom changed a bland, boring story into a successful movie. Dubus's work is trash and I would not recommend this reading to anyone. It is hard to understand his infatuation with whores. I do not want to understand such horrible women.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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