Derek's Reviews > Selected Stories

Selected Stories by Andre Dubus
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really liked it

The stories collected here are weird.

Not weird in any predictable, clichéd sense, either. It's just that Dubus seems to be working with different material than so many other short story writers (Alice Munro seems like a notable exception, but their voices aren't exactly redundant of one another, either). Much of the work appearing in Selected Stories sounds more like a novel than a short story; the patience that Dubus exhibits (and ultimately asks of his readers, too) is extraordinary. He's using oils when others are working in watercolors or sketching with nubby pencils. The stories take their time to get where they're going, and the end result is some pretty amazing and impactful narratives, ones that stick with you long after you've shut the book for the night or moved on to the next. And for all their literary-ness (whatever the hell that might mean), these stories aren't afraid to take risks and tackle big topics, either: murder, adultery, manslaughter, alcoholism, religion, the works. Some of these stories, in less able hands, might come off as exaggerated and sophomoric. But not in Dubus'.

Catholocism takes a big place here--imagine, perhaps, if Flannery O'Connor were writing from the perspective of New England instead of the American south--and as such, the stories have a gravity of guilt carried by many of the protagonists. But such guilt doesn't prohibit them from making the types of interesting mistakes that people love to read about, and so their despair seems hard-won and real.

If there's any complaint to be made against a pretty unassailable collection, it's that Dubus seems just a little too content to sit inside his own voice for protracted lengths of time; pages can pass before the present action of the story moves, or even begins, for that matter. It's a hard complaint to make, of course, because this is the same quality that makes Dubus' stories so compelling in the first place, but part of me is left wondering what detrimental effect excising a good 40 percent of some of these stories might have. With that said, it's still a wonderful collection well worth the time of any reader who is patient enough to not expect a ton of movement with every paragraph.

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Reading Progress

November 2, 2010 – Started Reading
November 2, 2010 – Shelved
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