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by Andre Dubus

Pub Date: June 8th, 1998
ISBN: 0-679-43108-X
Publisher: Knopf

This affecting second collection of personal essays from contemporary master of the short story Dubus (Dancing After Hours, 1996, etc.) displays the distinctive direct and elegant style and often reflects the masculine Catholic worldview that inform much of his fiction. Dubus says he was an active runner and walker before he lost his left leg at the knee and the use of his right one in an accident on a highway just north of Boston in the late 1980s. That experience, his ensuing physical struggle, and the dissolution of his marriage were written about in his first volume of essays, Broken Vessels, in 1991. Here he achieves an intensely personalized effect because of his technique of filtering his experience through the perspective of his faith. It’s also a perspective of suffering, for Dubus continues to live every day in physical pain, as he explains in the at once bleak and redemptive closing piece, “Witness,” about his recent encounter with a woman who saw his accident. Dubus is commanding and graceful as ever on the physicality and spirituality of love between men and women; and he writes with humility and honesty of his decision to live life in a wheelchair after an agonizing period of physical therapy; and of the occasional moment of radiance, such as his being carried onto the lawn by his older children to play ball with his younger ones. Wisely or not, he includes a letter of complaint to Amtrak that turns into a tough if dulcet rant. At least one recent critic, while acknowledging his gifts, has identified in Dubus the tendency, before and after his injury, to locate the emotional center of his writing in an overly indulgent, if bittersweet, nostalgia for the irrecoverable past. Still Dubus is an American original, and his talent continues to surprise. (Author tour)