Andre Dubus III is an American writer of fiction and memoir. His 1999 novel House of Sand and Fog lounged for 20 weeks on The New York Times’s Bestseller List in 2000 and 2001 and became a feature film in 2003. His 2008, based-on-real-events novel The Garden of Last Days explores the final days of one of the 9/11 terrorists, who chose to spend them indulging in the sins of the West. His 2012 memoir Townie is a profound meditation on the nature of violence. Born in 1959, Dubus obtained his bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Texas. Before succeeding as a writer, he worked odd jobs as a carpenter, bounty hunter, and bartender.
Andre Dubus III: Well, my own wanderings through the religious world are, you know, well, they're wanderings. I believe in the divine, but I don't think I believe in God, if that makes any sense. I believe in mystery, I believe in the sacred, I believe that within all of us is some sort of a light and a loving force that can be very easily darkened, I think. I don't believe in the notion of good people and bad people. I think that's one thing I've always been writing about. I don't believe that good people exist here and bad people here. I believe we're all of the above and I don't think any reprehensible behavior is beneath me. I don't think I'm above anything as a human being. However, I pray over my kids every night, and you know, I was raised Catholic for at least the first five or six years or eight years of my life, so I do the sign of the cross, but I'd just as soon do a Jewish prayer or a Muslim prayer or a Buddhist or Hindu meditation. I'm actually troubled by monotheism. I have a hard time with it. But I believe in the divine. And I have a hard time believing that when we're dead, that's it. Most days I think there's something more mysterious that goes on.
Question: Your dad was a strict Catholic?
Andre Dubus III: Yeah. Huge. Very devout. Went to mass seven mornings a week. It was a big part of his life, you know, prayed with the rosary. But I dodged that bullet. And I shouldn't put it that way. But I kind of believe that's what I dodged.
Question: Did research for "The Garden of Last Days" involve strip clubs?
Andre Dubus III: Yeah, I was forced to go to many strip clubs. I actually had been to one as a young guy at a bachelor's party, which I found depressing and expensive, when I was about 20. So, I had gotten a Guggenheim Fellowship so I had money that was supposed to be used for research, so I thought, well, you know, I should use it to do this. So I actually had to go to my wife and say, you know, honey, I really need to go do some research for this thing I'm working on, and I did. I flew to Florida, and went to these clubs and interviewed some dancers. But I have to say too that I also went to Florida to kind of smell Florida and see the vegetation and to feel the difference between Florida--not Florida. I had this belief that if you're trying to write character-driven fiction, then the heart of the story is character, and if the heart of the story is character, then the landscape and place are the lungs, and the characters can't breathe without it. There's also a wonderful line about this from the writer Ron Carlson, who said that details are for the writer only, they are the instruments by which we steer. So essential details are completely--they're not the garnish on the side of the plate. They're the meat and potatoes. they completely influence what happens and where things go. So I needed to go and I'm glad I did.
Recorded on: 6/11/08