(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Dubin’s Lives chronicles the story of Dubin, a man in his mid-fifties who is undergoing a life crisis. As a biographer who has studied the content of lives, he tries to redirect his own life. Dubin has always been much influenced by the lives he has studied. As the novel opens, he is writing about D. H. Lawrence. As he assimilates Lawrence, he becomes imbued with Lawrence’s sense of the preeminence of the force of sex. Looking to find passion and to change his life, Dubin falls in love with the young housekeeper whom his wife has hired. They talk to each other, and after he gives her a copy of his first work, Short Lives, she returns the favor by coming into his study, taking off her clothes, and offering herself to him. While he rejects this opportunity out of respect for his wife, he looks for an occasion to have an extended time with her and invites her to spend a week with him in Venice, telling his wife that he is going to research the erotic Lawrence. Once in Venice, Fanny gets a stomach flu. When she recovers, they plan to meet and make love. Dubin, however, arrives late for their meeting, having followed a young woman and an old man whom he believes must be his daughter and her lover. When he gives up the search, he arrives at the hotel to find the now robust Fanny making love with a young gondolier, a comic scene that makes Dubin appear like the cuckolded old husband in a tale by Geoffrey Chaucer.

This fiasco starts cycles of despair and writer’s block, which Dubin deals with through a strict regimen of rigorous dieting and exercise. Two intervals of...

(The entire section is 654 words.)