I don’t think anyone writes better about men and masculinity than Andre Dubus: not Carver, not Updike, not Ford. Like Carver his characters live at a specific place and time, an America recovering from Vietnam (many of them are Veterans), and struggling with their personal lives. In The Winter Father, a local radio DJ is separating from his wife, and in doing so begins to discover his children properly for the first time. He’s not a bad man, that’s the thing, but the separation is a sign of how he and his wife have fallen out of love, if they ever were given they married young. He takes his children on a Wednesday evening and on weekend days, and takes them to the places where other divorced men are with their kids, the cinema, the fast food joint; sledging on the hills in winter, then on the beach in summer. What separates Dubus from other writers is that every line seems to resonate with detail, he unpicks the minutiae of lives, and from it builds up a complete picture. The father meets a woman and immediately realises he is trying to recreate a happy family.
Divorced kids go to the beach more than married ones… because married people do chores and errands on weekends.
First published in The Sewanee Review. Collected in Finding a Girl in America, David R. Godine, 1980, and The Winter Father: Collected Short Stories and Novellas, David R. Godine, 2018