Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 859
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.
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.
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 394
Andre Dubus was born into a Cajun Catholic family on August 11, 1936. Growing up in Lake Charles and Lafayette, Louisiana, Dubus attended Christian Brothers school, where he was instilled with a love of literature. After graduating from college with a journalism degree, Dubus joined the Marines, serving for six years and achieving the rank of captain. He then moved to Iowa City with his children and first wife, and attended the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop. There, he was mentored by Richard Yates and developed a writing style that was greatly influenced by Anton Chekhov.
Moving again to Massachusetts, Dubus began a successful teaching and publishing career. His first major accomplishment was the novel The Lieutenant, which was published by David R. Godine in 1965. While Dubus would stick to short stories and essays afterwards, he remained loyal to Godine, despite offers from larger presses. His prolific catalog includes classic volumes such as Adultery and Other Choices (1977), Broken Vessels (1991), and the National Book Award finalist Dancing After Hours (1996). His short story "Killings" was adapted into the Oscar-nominated film In the Bedroom, and the story "We Don't Live Here Anymore" was adapted into the 2004 movie of the same name.
Dubus was marked from an early age by tragedy; his sister was attacked and brutally raped. Consequently, he found himself exploring the themes of betrayal and violence in his writing. Later, in 1986, Dubus suffered a terrible car accident. While he attempted to help a brother and sister from their wrecked vehicle, a car veered off the road and struck them. The brother died and Dubus lost one of his legs. Though he tried physical therapy and prosthetics, he was wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life. He wrote about his physical and emotional pain with great elegance and insight in the essay collection Meditations From a Moveable Chair.
A life-long Catholic, Dubus experienced a spiritual reawakening later in life. Despite the fact that he was married and divorced three times, he found great solace and joy in his large family of six children, including the writer Andre Dubus III, who penned the novel House of Sand and Fog. Dubus was the recipient of many honors and awards during his lifetime, including the PEN/Malamud Award, the Rea Award for the Short Story, and a MacArthur Genius Grant. He died of a heart attack in his Massachusetts home on February 25, 1999.
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