After reading ‘Dirty Love,’ I’d have to say Andre Dubus III is a master of immediacy. But he’s also unique in making memory immediate, too. Usually in prose, even in great works, there’s a noticeable sag while describing the past, as if the moment had affected the character but had also become inflexible, a fixed proposition. Because Dubus maintains the intensity of his sensory descriptions while describing the past, we are treated to a double awareness of a character’s circumstances that does not quarantine memory. I realize after reading ‘Dirty Love’ that I have probably written scenes that treated memory like a trial exhibit instead of something alive. It’s not so much what a character can say after describing a memory, but how they can behave! To let the reader know they are attempting to break a mold the past had cast. Or that they have succumbed to the allure of external perception masquerading as identity. Especially in the last novella, we see characters communicating with their past through a behavior in the present. I guess we could do this automatically from a basic storytelling standpoint, (I think writing detailed scenes and getting to know your characters will bring up this depth naturally, even if there’s no specific intention other than putting forward an honest effort) but the simmering and subsequent explosion of memory, identity, decisions and consequences for characters in this book was remarkable to me.
January 21, 2015
Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III