Dancing After Hours: Stories, Andre Dubus 1996
It’s been a while since I started reading more slowly in the middle of a book in order to prolong the pleasure of reading it, but that was strongly the case in reading Dubus’s final book of short stories, a remarkable collection. Dubus has an interesting and tragic life story which is relevant, in retrospect, to these stories. Born in Louisiana and educated in the South and at the Iowa Writers Workshop, he spent 10 years in the Marines before moving to Haverhill, MA to teach at the relatively unknown, small Bradford College which ceased operations in 2000. His daughter was raped and Dubus reacted to that event by carrying a firearm for years to protect his family. He was the victim of a samaritan attempt to help people in a disabled car and when he was himself struck by an approaching vehicle he was severely injured and spent the remaining 13 years in a wheelchair. I cite these life events because they are quite evident in his stories—the eponymous story features a man in a wheelchair, a recurring character is nearly raped in her home in another, and all the characters in these deeply moving, beautifully rendered stories are searching for love, attachment, and meaning in a harsh and uncaring world. The scope of the stories is extra-ordinary but the depth of feeling, the richness of language, and the deep insights into the human heart are present in all of them. I turned to this volume after hearing Peter Orner, another extraordinary short story writer, talk about how he had spent time at Dubus’s writers’ get togethers in Haverhill. Having read this volume as well as Orner’s Maggie Brown and Others, I can only imagine the energy and excitement in those meetings. Read Dubus!