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Dirty Love Paperback – June 10, 2014
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*Starred Review* Award–winning novelist Dubus (The Garden of Last Days, 2008) debuted as a short story writer nearly 25 years ago. He now reclaims the form in an incisive collection of subtly linked tales set in a changing New Hampshire coastal town. With fresh energy and conviction, Dubus explores the demands and disappointments of desire and marriage, generating a critical mass of sensory detail and refined suspense. A desperately orderly man hires a detective to follow his longtime, suddenly unfaithful wife. Two overweight loners attempt to find the intimacy other couples seem to take for granted. A bartender posing as a poet and living on charm and evasiveness suddenly faces the realities of fatherhood. In the unforgettable novella “Dirty Love,” Devon is hounded out of high school when a dirty cell-phone video, recorded without her permission, is posted online. She seeks sanctuary with her great-uncle Francis, a retired teacher haunted by his experiences in the Korean War. Dubus’ emotional discernment, sexual candor, penetrating evocation of place, sensitivity to family conflicts, and keen attunement to the perils of our embrace of “iEverything”—from online sexual roulette to cyberbullying and violent video games—are electrifying, compassionate, and profound. These are masterful and ravishing tales of loneliness, confusion, betrayal, the hunger for oblivion, and the quest for forgiveness. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A seven-city author tour and major national media coverage will support the latest provocative book by best-selling Dubus. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
“The loosely linked stories vividly paint the intensity of despair, uncertainty, loneliness and affection, and the many demons that torment the soul. Dubus’s offerings feel intimate and are powerfully executed.”
- April L. Judge, Library Journal
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In this latest work, he weaves together four novellas whose characters intertwine. A character may walk out the door of one story and end up on the front porch in the next novella. Dubus is a consummate story teller - both in person and on the printed page. One of the traits that makes his writing so readable and enjoyable is that he writes in gritty detail about places he knows well - the mill towns along the Merrimac River, Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, Salem, Massachusetts. I love Andre's work in part because of his mastery of language and in part becomes he transports me back home. We grew up along the same river banks, and he helps me to recall the pungent smell of the clam flats at low tide, and the sea breeze wafting over the salt marches. He is a writer of senses - sights, sounds, tastes, smells and tactical impressions. Reading his words awakens my senses in ways that allow me to fully enter the world he has created.
Like the tidal Merrimac River that he and I both love, the changing tides in Dubus' life have cleansed him of the rage that flowed within the banks of his soul for so long. In place of that rage is a ferocious curiosity about life and how others live their lives. He notices things, and shares those observations and insights with his readers to that we are moved to care about the fate of a young waitress living with her great uncle because her father thinks she is a slut not worthy of his love. There is an ironic purity about the love that this author has for his motley crew of characters who inhabit the pages of "Dirty Love." I encourage you to read this book and to be uplifted.
Andre Dubus III's House of Sand and Fog was truly one of the most moving and affecting books I've read in the last 15 years, and the film adaptation was powerful and well-acted. Dubus so perfectly told the story of flawed people trying to get what they wanted and felt they were entitled to, with disastrous consequences.
He brings that same literary power (without utter tragedy) to Dirty Love, his collection of tangentially linked novellas about people who want to be happy in love, but the pitfalls of love—infidelity, low self-esteem, foolish mistakes, alcoholism—get in their way. Again, Dubus' characters are far from perfect and their actions don't always make you feel sympathy for them, but their stories are far too common in real life, and they make you feel as you shake your head.
In "Listen Carefully as Our Options Have Changed," Mark, a middle-aged technology project manager, discovers his wife of more than 25 years, has been cheating on him. For a man who spends his days controlling situations, losing control is quite unsettling, and he tries to figure out what his next steps are—kicking her out of the house, begging for a reconciliation, beating the crap out of her lover—or all of the above.
In "Marla," an overweight woman with low self-esteem has always wondered what it would be like to have a boyfriend and envies the ease by which her female colleagues enter relationships. But when she finally finds a man who shows romantic interest in her, she questions whether what she imagined love would be is a fantasy or should be the reality to aspire to.
The main character in "The Bartender" has always dreamed of being a poet but can never pull his poems together to be more than a tool to seduce women. When he finally meets a woman he cares enough about to marry, he dreams of becoming a different person, but even the impending arrival of a baby can't stop his philandering ways.
And in the title novella, a teenage girl named Devon has fled to her elderly great-uncle's home to escape her father's infidelity and the aftereffects of her sexual escapades being posted online. As her great-uncle struggles with his own memories, Devon dreams of starting over, and wonders if an Iraqi vet she's met online might be the answer.
All four of these novellas are tremendously compelling, although knowing Dubus' writing, I kept expecting the protagonists to do something irreparable, so I felt as if I were reading with my hands metaphorically over my eyes. And while these characters are flawed, happily, they don't veer into House of Sand and Fog territory. Dubus is such a terrific storyteller, and he really could expand all four of these into full-length novels. They're not exactly happy stories, but they're definitely realistic, and I can't stop thinking about them.
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A must read for both men and women.Read more