Like Father, Like Son

Question: Do you remember liking the stories your father wrote?

Andre Dubus III: Well, like a lot of people, like a lot of kids, I didn't know what my dad did. Or I vaguely knew that he wrote stories but I didn't think about it. I was probably-- I was 15 the first time I read anything of his and it was his first book and his only novel, The Lieutenant, and I really loved it, and I couldn't believe my father wrote something that good, because, you know, he's just "that guy." And then the first short story I read of his, I was probably 18, and it was the story, "Killings," which was ultimately adapted into the film "In the Bedroom," and I couldn’t believe the power of that story. And so, yeah, I loved his work. I still love his work. He's one of my favorite writers. I think he's a really honest, passionate, compassionate writer. I don't-- Catholicism is always, that's foreign to me. You know, I don't practice a particular faith and that's all. But I love his work. I think he was an artist.

Question: He knew Kurt Vonnegut?

 

Andre Dubus III: Yeah, Vonnegut actually-- when my father left the Marines, moved to-- went to the Iowa Writers Workshop in the sixties, some of my earliest memories were our grandmother bought us a TV and this guy Kurt would come down every day at three o'clock and watch Batman, and he'd chain smoke and had curly hair and he'd look down at me and I'd look up at him and he's say, "I like the Riddler, who's your favorite character?" and he'd smoke, and I'd say, "I like False Face." "Yeah, Kapow, Kazowi." And it was Kurt Vonnegut. I had no idea. Years later, "I watched Batman with Kurt Vonnegut?" Yes, you did. I wouldn't say-- well, I would say my father's life was tumultuous in that he was what sociologists would call a serial monogamist, you know, he was married three times, divorced three times and I think if he'd lived, he'd have been married again. He and I talked about some of this later in his life, and I know that with each marriage, he meant to stay married, it just wasn't in the cards for him. So the tumultuous part was really just the homefront, you know, the nest. It was never quite stable for him.

Question: Do you see his writing in yours?

Andre Dubus III: I really-- do I see any of his writing in mine? Not really. Well, only in that we both, you know, he wrote really deep, lovely character-driven fiction, I try to write character-driven fiction. But I think we have such a different vision of the world, and I think his sentences were actually more lyrical and beautiful. He was a real stylist, and he's from the South. That's a distinction, he's a Southern writer, at least in voice, I think, and in cadence. He's got a lot of Faulkner and St. James Bible in him, I think. And I'm from New England, it's a whole different vibe. No, I don't think so. I think if we didn't have the same name, no one would ever think of us two together. But I might be wrong. I'm just the writer of one of these things, so I might be wrong about that.

Question: Is there a difference between Northern and Southern fiction writing?

Andre Dubus III: I read a lot of Southern fiction. And I think what I love about it is what I love about-- all my relatives were from Louisiana, my mother and father, every grandparent, aunt, uncle and cousin, everybody's from Louisiana and Texas, too. So I feel sort of a soulful connection to that region, although I'm an East Coast kid. You know, I'm a mill town kid from north of Boston. I think that there's a certain lyricism in Southern writing that is not in Northern writing. I'm making broad generalizations here, but there's a certain lyrical quality, that I think might come from the St. James Bible in some ways. It comes from-- I don't know. it's frankly a mystery, but what I love-- and there's also a deep, sensual quality to a lot of-- you know, in so much Southern writing, everybody's got a body, you know, there's bourbon and crawfish and hot sun on your face and the squeal of a car over gravel. I'm a sucker for all that. I love all that. And I'm making broad generalizations, but one could argue that a lot of writing from the North tends to be a little bit more cerebral and urban, fast-clipped, more of an interior sort of life. A little edgier. And I like both. I mean, both are delicious, really. And I don't know, man, I haven't really thought about this with me, I may kind of fall somewhere in-between. I don't know. I think they're equally powerful. I don't believe Southern fiction is superior to Northern fiction, at all. And I'm not even comfortable with these broad generalizations, because there are so many exceptions. But there are some broad truths there, I think.

Recorded on: 6/11/08

 

 

Author Andre Dubus grew up in the shadow of writers, from his famous father to Kurt Vonnegut.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

The dos and don’ts of helping a drug-addicted person recover

How you talk to people with drug addiction might save their life.

Videos
  • Addiction is a learning disorder; it's not a sign that someone is a bad person.
  • Tough love doesn't help drug-addicted people. Research shows that the best way to get people help is through compassion, empathy and support. Approach them as an equal human being deserving of respect.
  • As a first step to recovery, Maia Szalavitz recommends the family or friends of people with addiction get them a complete psychiatric evaluation by somebody who is not affiliated with any treatment organization. Unfortunately, warns Szalavitz, some people will try to make a profit off of an addicted person without informing them of their full options.
Keep reading Show less

The most culturally chauvinist people in Europe? Greeks, new research suggests

Meanwhile, Spaniards are the least likely to say their culture is superior to others.

Image: Pew Research Center
Strange Maps
  • Survey by Pew Research Center shows great variation in chauvinism across Europe.
  • Eight most chauvinist countries are in the east, and include Russia.
  • British much more likely than French (and slightly more likely than Germans) to say their culture is "superior" to others.
Keep reading Show less

In a first for humankind, China successfully sprouts a seed on the Moon

China's Chang'e 4 biosphere experiment marks a first for humankind.

Image source: CNSA
Surprising Science
  • China's Chang'e 4 lunar lander touched down on the far side of the moon on January 3.
  • In addition to a lunar rover, the lander carried a biosphere experiment that contains five sets of plants and some insects.
  • The experiment is designed to test how astronauts might someday grow plants in space to sustain long-term settlements.
Keep reading Show less