Another quick book review, this time fiction (I try to alternate fiction and non-fiction reading).
Three novellas by Andre Dubus II: We Don’t Live Here Anymore, Adultery, Finding a Girl in America.
The three novellas are linked by the cast of characters, although they are from different points of view. A movie was made that draws on all three novellas and I intend to watch it soon, but I wanted to finish the work and let it marinate first.
I’m a big fan of short fiction in general, and have appreciated Andre Dubus. He has some beautiful sentences. At his best he is a bit like Tolstoy, with sentences that go deep into someone’s thoughts and motivations, turning them inside out for all to see. However, he doesn’t evoke a sense of place in the way that Tolstoy does, and all the action begins to feel very interior after a while. I can tell that he is too close to some of his characters, especially the writer-types who are unfaithful to their wives. Paradoxically, he does better at elucidating the female characters. It’s a good lesson here about being too close to something to be able to evoke it for readers.
Also, I love the long intricate sentences, but too many of them become cumbersome.
I made an effort to suspect (edited: suspend) a sense of moral judgment as I read these pieces. I did not think: Who is wrong? Who is right? I made the effort, instead, to read this as a description of how humans operate as they try to find happiness. What unconscious forces drive them? What are they thinking? How do they hurt each other and themselves?
In “Adultery” there’s a character who’s an ex-priest. I found him to be quite poignant. I wish Dubus had done more with the ex-priest because he reminded me of the title character in another story (perhaps his most well-known) called “A Father’s Story.” Have you read that one? Do. It is one of the most powerful stories I have ever read. Dubus was a lifelong Catholic and it shows. His descriptions of finding redemption in the sacrament of the Eucharist are really powerful.
Have you seen the movie? What did you think of it?