Not to be confused with his progeny, Andre Dubus III (of House of Sand and Fog fame), Andre Dubus is a master storyteller, milking each word on the page for full meaning. Before reading this collection of short stories, I’d never even heard of him: go figure.
Goodness knows I’m not a big fan of short story compilations. I prefer lengthier pieces with fleshed out plots and characters. It’s especially galling if the short story is good, because I’m then left waiting for more.
I can’t talk about plots or characters here, really: there are too many of them. I am struck, however, by the book’s morbid fascinating with inward characters, grappling with addictions or emotionally distant relationships or &c., and all seeming to do so in silence. I’m reminded of Chuck Palahniuk, though of course Dubus is too restrained to get weird on his readers; one gets the impression of conflict between the perversions (of sorts) harbored by the characters in this book and a sort of puritanism, either from the time period or something of Dubus’ own devising.
It’s far from a happy look at life: none of these stories will leave you smiling; few—if any—will make you chuckle. Most will make you agitated at the constant fuckups of the characters or their emotional impotency; all will make you think about the multiple facets that Dubus manages to include in such a small space.
The highlight of the book is its title story, “Adultery,” about an emotionally-crippled husband and wife a hairs-breadth away from being swingers, and the icy, brutish sort of relationship engendered. Arguably, nothing newmdash;in fact, you can probably guess the ends to all of these stories—but damn can this guy write.