Richard Derus's Reviews > House of Sand and Fog

House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
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May 10, 2012

it was amazing
Read in December, 2002

Rating: 4.75* of five

The Book Report: Behrani. An exiled colonel in the Shah's army. Kathy. A fucked-up druggie living off her inheritance. Lester. A major idiot whose law-enforcement career is his last best shot at staying off welfare.

Not one of these people will leave this book better than they entered it. Kathy's only home is the one she inherited, and the county says it's not hers anymore because she hasn't paid the taxes. She has, though. She's completely unable to function in the world because she's hazed on drugs for so long that even when she's clean she can't think straight. That means she can't figure out how to prove she has complied with the law.

Behrani can't get an American life going. He has savings (one hesitates to imagine where the money came from originally) that barely keep him afloat, and jobs that demean him but are all a man with no skills except being an Army officer can get. But his son's college money is sufficient to buy a distressed property at auction. Kathy's home, as it turns out. He plans to renovate and flip it, using this as a stepping-stone to American Dream-level prosperity.

Lester comes in as the deputy assigned to be sure Kathy gets out of the home that's no longer hers. Love at first sight! Lame-o Lester and Loser Kathy...surely the white trash Romeo and Juliet!

Pretty much.

Dubus drags us through the legal system as the parties battle out the rights and wrongs of the case. No one here is a good person, just a greedy selfish prick who deserves what, in the end, is meted out to them by the author's just and pitiless exercise of karmic debt collection.

My Review: NOT an uplifting book. My withers were wrung about every twenty pages, and I took frequent breaks in order to console myself with excessive liquor consumption and sordid sexual escapades.

I love a book that brings out the best in me.

There's a scene where Lame-o Lester gets his first-ever BJ from Loser Kathy, which Dubus goes into in a bizarrely flat and affectless way that completely desxualizes the act, makes it a symptom of a pathology and not an erotic or intimate or even sexy development. It's just part of the sickness pervading these broken, unfixable people's existences.

Did you *get* that? A man wrote about the thing most men want more than food and only slightly less than air, and made it *unappealing*.

Dubus is a master of his craft. He is an artist. He can do anything he wants with words to make them dance in the reader's head to HIS tune, screw whatever you were expecting, reader! He can fashion a story that, in its outlines, sounds juicy and ripe with conflict, and make it a sharp object that will deflate whatever happy illusions were still in your head about yourself and this Murrikin Dream we're supposed to be having, reader!

And that is why you should read this book.
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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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message 1: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich He can do anything he wants with words to make them dance in the reader's head to HIS tune, screw whatever you were expecting, reader!

Sign of a true master. I'm sold. The film was excellent, so I can only imagine the book was exponentially better!


Richard Derus It is, it is, young Sven, and it will give you such a ride...! I compare Dubus III to Knut Hamsun in his emotionally devastating emotionlessness.


message 3: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Richard wrote: "It is, it is, young Sven, and it will give you such a ride...! I compare Dubus III to Knut Hamsun in his emotionally devastating emotionlessness."

Emotionally devestating emotionlessness. You've coined another phrase that needs to be spread. And, that is pretty much a high selling-point for me. Hamsun always crushes, so anything similar has to be amazing.


message 4: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Why do I see so many good books the seconds I dive into big tomes like Gravitys Rainbow!?


Jeffrey Keeten I read his Daddy and wasn't moved to read more, but this sounds really good. I was just thinking the other day that I needed something to inspire more "sordid sexual escapades" in my life.


Richard Derus s.penkevich wrote: "Why do I see so many good books the seconds I dive into big tomes like Gravitys Rainbow!?"

Because the Christian Gawd rules the Universe, and she hates humanity with a vibrating Day-Glo orange passion, so bad things happen to people who don't deserve them and don't happen to people who do.


Richard Derus Jeffrey wrote: "I read his Daddy and wasn't moved to read more, but this sounds really good. I was just thinking the other day that I needed something to inspire more "sordid sexual escapades" in my life."

...and you a family man...!


Jeffrey Keeten Richard wrote: "Jeffrey wrote: "I read his Daddy and wasn't moved to read more, but this sounds really good. I was just thinking the other day that I needed something to inspire more "sordid sexual escapades" in ..."

I can't be sordid with my wife? haha


Richard Derus By definition, no. Wives do not have sordid sex. They shudderingly submit to the horrifying and depraved lusts of the beasts they are legally shackled to.

Where is your feminist consciousness?!


Jeffrey Keeten I resent that I resemble that statement. Beast CHECK, depraved lusts CHECK. It is so constricting being a "pillar of the community".

According to Ann Coulter, since I'm not a republican, I am incapable of having great sex anyway. Dialing the monastery.


Richard Derus The monks I've had sex with don't make me think that's a particularly good training ground for sordidity. Mostly pretty vanilla, then copious floods of tears about vows, blah blah blah.

Oh wait...you mean to be celibate there...oh! Well, again back to the monks I've had sex with, not a great place for that either.


Jeffrey Keeten Richard wrote: "The monks I've had sex with don't make me think that's a particularly good training ground for sordidity. Mostly pretty vanilla, then copious floods of tears about vows, blah blah blah.

Oh wait......"


The tears are always so off putting. It takes the glow off the rose.


Richard Derus Jeffrey wrote: "The tears are always so off putting. It takes the glow off the rose."

So...The 120 Days of Sodom wasn't a major factor in your erotic education, then....


Erin ☕ *Proud Book Hoarder* Excellent review - just finished the book tonight. I agree with your assessment about Kathy and Lester, but I still find myself pitying them. Realistic characters but not admirable.


Sam I've had this book on my TBR for quite sometime and I was thinking about getting rid of it. I don't even remember where I got it, while looking at it the other day I thought to myself "Why do u even have this book, u don't even know what its about." So I took to Goodreads to see what it was about and rather I wanted to keep it and read it or not. I wasn't all that convinced with the synopsis, so I scrolled down the page to take a look at the reviews and low and behold your review was first, I read it and you convinced me to give it a try. I will be reading it after I finish me current book. I hope I really like it cause its on your head if I don't LOL.


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