September 22, 2013

Author Q &A: In his blood

Andre Dubus III comes to Biddeford this week to talk about writing and his new book set in Massachusetts, the place he fled, then chose.

By Bob Keyes
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD — Andre Dubus III has learned to embrace New England.

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WHO: Andre Dubus III will read and speak, with literary agent Lucas Hunt.

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Engine, 265 Main St., Biddeford.

WHAT ELSE: Admission is free. For more information, call 228-8263.

It was no small task. He spent his early life distancing himself from it as much as he could. He had a difficult upbringing in Massachusetts, and resented anyone with a New England accent.

But he is 54 now, and has learned to let go. He lives near Newburyport, Mass., is happily married and gainfully employed at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, where he hopes to inspire students to tap their creativity and express themselves with words.

At 7 p.m. Friday, the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance, the arts group Engine and the McArthur Public Library will host a reading and talk by the best-selling author in Biddeford.

His novel "House of Sand and Fog" was both a National Book Award finalist and an Oprah Book Club selection. His last book, "Townie," was a memoir that explored his early years, as well as his reconciliation with his father, the writer Andre Dubus.

He has a new collection of stories, titled "Dirty Love," scheduled for release Oct. 7. His publisher has arranged to sell 100 copies of the book at the Biddeford event, meaning that Maine will host the book's premiere.

"Dirty Love" brings together four stories under one title, all dealing with various aspects of human relationships. They're certainly not pretty, or very redeeming. But the book is winning a lot of early praise for its grit and honesty.

Scheduled at Engine during Biddeford's Art Walk, the free Friday night event also will include literary agent, poet and publisher Lucas Hunt, who will lead a Q&A session. Dubus will read from "Dirty Love" and discuss his work.

At 1:30 p.m. Saturday, the MWPA will host ASIDE Vol. 2: A Citizen's Forum on Literary Particulars, featuring Hunt, at Engine. The afternoon talk's theme will be "The Lucas Hunt Trifecta: The Literary Life of a Poet, Agent and Small Press Publisher." That event is free for MWPA members, and for nonmembers a $5 donation is suggested.

We spoke with Dubus by phone from his home in Massachusetts. 

Q: Tell me about "Dirty Love." What were you aiming for when you embarked on this project?

A: I never aim for anything. Well, that's not true. I aim simply to get deep into a character in a certain situation and let the themes reveal themselves on their own. I was aiming to write a collection of novellas, and they came together organically and on their own.

The first one, I published in 1999. It's called "The Bartender." The second was one called "Marla," and both are the phoenixes that rose from the failed ashes of the same novel that never came together. The only things that stayed were these two characters and their stories.

As it happens, I have seen lots of marriages that are crumbling and falling to the ground, sadly. I've been married almost 25 years, and knock on wood, we seem to be doing OK.

But writers write from fears and demons and their own curiosities. 

Q: What does it mean to you to be a New Englander? You have lived in a few places, but you've chosen to come home. Why?

A: Because I was raised by a single mother and with a lot of heartache growing up, I had a really negative association with all of New England when I hit my early 20s. All of it. I wrote the whole region off.

I lived all over the country, and thank God I had a girlfriend who wanted to come back to this area.

I got a trailer on a beach off Newburyport, working as a bartender and writing by day. I met my wife then, and began to heal the wound.

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