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: Yeah, I'm about 200 pages into something new. You know what? It's this novel I've been trying to write for 25 years about this little chunk of my life that had to do with the '70s and poverty and sex, drugs, rock and roll, really, and I think I've come to the conclusion that I'm not one of these writers who can write fiction derivatally from my life and do it correctly. i can't have a bad Thanksgiving in Texas and then write a short story of a bad Thanksgiving in Texas. Truman Capote could. Hemingway had his Nick Adams' stories. A lot of writers can, but a lot of writers can't, and I think I'm in the camp that can't. So I think it's a creative non-fiction memoir. I think that's what I'm doing.
Question: Does your writing take other forms?
Andre Dubus III: I'm also working on a collection of novellas. Two are done and I hope I'll be working on that next. So the next two books, hopefully, will be collection of creative non-fiction/memoir and a collection of novellas. But I have to say, man, that I'm really-- you know, a friend of mine has a garage band, a rock and roll garage band, and he prefers to listen to rock and roll garage bands. And I prefer to read novels even though I love the short story, and I read a lot of poetry. So I prefer to write novels, but I think that's really more my temperament, I really like getting lost in a four-, five-, six-hundred page story for three or four years of my life. It's like a big mural on the side of a building. I really like how big the novel is. Not my novel, but "the" novel. But I would say, I would try not to say no to any kind of writing. I think writers should try all kinds of writing.
Question: Including screenplays?
Andre Dubus III: Yeah, I'm not as particularly interested in screenplays, only--I'll tell you why though, and not that I don't respect them, you know, some are really quite artful. I'm thinking of Horton Foote or Paul Schrader; there's some really good screenwriters. But for me, I'm lost without the central detail. Back to that cross of mine, I can't just have "exterior shot Wal-Mart" and then start having people talking. I need to feel is it a hot, sunny day in that parking lot of Wal-Mart? Does he smell of urine and asphalt, which reminds him of his uncle which makes him call his aunt which makes--see what I'm saying? It steers the action. So I'm actually lost in the play and screenplay form, because they don't have enough sensual detail.
Questions: Who are your favorite poets?
Andre Dubus III: One of my favorite American poets these days, I've been reading a lot of, is Stephen Dunn, a wonderful poet. I love Sharon Olds; Ben Rampey, Maria Howell, Carolyn Forche, so many good ones. I read a lot of poetry. I've been reading Gerald Stern, and I've been reading Shiloh Milos. I'm very intrigued with the latest book because he's really wrestling with his Catholic faith, he's really wrestling with the notion of faith. Which I'm wrestling with, too.
Recorded on: 6/11/08
I had found a new way to express myself, and it was with words.