Last year, on the strength of a second-hand copy of We Don’t Live Here Anymore, I bought Godine’s three-volume reissue of the collected stories of Andre Dubus. I wanted to learn how to write better, longer fiction, but couldn’t afford the fees for the course I was interested in, so I decided to homeschool myself.
Dubus excels at the long-short form (plenty of other writers do too, of course. Deborah Eisenberg springs to mind, but I didn’t pack her Collected Stories). In ‘A Father’s Story’ we read an account by Luke Ripley of his marriage, the years after it ended, his friendship with a priest; faith, gifts given and mistakes made.
It is not a simple or easy story, but in it Dubus offers the reader hope, which is also a gift, the kind that might get you through a rough patch, however short, however long…
It is not hard to live through a day, if you can live through a moment. What creates despair is the imagination, which pretends there is a future, and insists on predicting millions of moments, thousands of days, and so drains you that you cannot live the moment at hand.
There is a similar passage in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, so close to the sentiment I can’t help but wonder if he stole it. I admire, with a kind of wonder, writers like Dubus, who seem to surgically dissect their characters, remove their innards, smear them over the page and still produce beautiful prose. It is a skill, an art.
From The Collected Short Stories & Novellas, David R. Godine, 2018