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Andre Dubus:

An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Dubus, Andre, 1936-1999
Title: Andre Dubus Papers
Dates: 1925-2001
Extent: 23 document boxes, 2 oversize folders (osf) (9.66 linear feet)
Abstract: The papers of American author Andre Dubus span the years 1925 to 2001 and comprise notebooks containing drafts of short stories and non-fiction, story ideas and character notes, along with family correspondence and a series of journals in which are recorded thoughts, personal and religious exercises performed, and housekeeping notes.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-5152
Language: English
Access:

Open for research




Acquisition:

Purchases (09-09-002-P, 10-03-006-P, 10-06-006-P), 2009-2010

Processed by:

Bob Taylor, 2012

Repository:

The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center


Andre Dubus was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on 11 August 1936 as the third child and only son of Andre J. Dubus and his wife Katherine Burke Dubus. From his civil engineer father, Dubus inherited an interest in the outdoors and in sports--particularly baseball--and from his mother, Catholic faith and a cultural bent. By the time of his graduation from Cathedral High School in Lafayette, Louisiana, the young Dubus had become keenly interested in pursuing a writing career, so upon entering McNeese State College at Lake Charles in 1954 he chose journalism as his major subject.

Upon graduation from McNeese in 1958 with a BA degree in journalism and literature Andre Dubus received a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. He had in early 1958 married Patricia Lowe, a fellow McNeese student; in the next five years they became the parents of four children. While a serving Marine officer Dubus worked as time permitted at his chosen craft, and in 1963 had a short story, "The Intruder," published in The Sewanee Review. Also in 1963, Andre Dubus Sr. died, an event followed by the son resigning his Marine commission and entering the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa.

Having received the MFA degree from the Iowa workshop Dubus moved east to Massachusetts, where from 1966 he taught modern literature and creative writing at Bradford College. In 1970, he and Pat Dubus were divorced; in 1975, he married Tommie Gale Cotter, from whom he was divorced in 1977. Dubus's third and final marriage was to Peggy Rambach. They had two daughters and were divorced in 1989.

With his dedicated literary career underway in the mid-1960s Dubus found increased time for writing. In 1967, Dial Press published The Lieutenant, his only novel, a work based on his experience as a Marine officer on shipboard. From the outset the short story attracted Andre Dubus, and with "If They Knew "Yvonne"" (1970) he first gained critical attention with his short fiction. Yvonne marked the first of his four appearances in Best American Short Stories; in 1980, his short story "The Pitcher" was selected for the O. Henry Prize Stories of that year.

Separate Flights, Dubus's first collection of short stories, was published by David R. Godine in 1975, and in the next eleven years six more collections of Dubus's short fiction followed. In this period he was also awarded Guggenheim fellowships and National Endowment for the Arts grants, each on two occasions.

Strong critical pieces by, among others, Joyce Carol Oates and John Updike during the 1980s increased Dubus's readership, but it was, in a sense, a tragedy that strongly affected his later work and its broader acceptance. While returning to his home in Haverill, Massachusetts in the early morning hours of July 23, 1986 Andre Dubus came upon a highway mishap. Stopping, he began to render assistance but was struck and grievously injured by a passing car. The loss of one leg at the knee and of effective use of the other leg placed Dubus in a wheelchair for the remainder of his life.

As Dubus struggled to cope with the physical pain and psychological dislocation brought about by the accident, his wife left him in late 1987. Later he wrote, she "came with a court order and a kind young Haverhill police officer and took Cadence and Madeleine away."

With his personal and creative life seemingly in free fall Dubus was before long heartened and surprised by unexpected support. Probably best-known of these efforts on behalf of Dubus was that initiated by John Irving and Kurt Vonnegut. They were able to assemble a group of American writers to participate in a series of benefit readings for Andre Dubus and his family.

On five Sundays in February and March of 1987 at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the authors (including--in addition to Irving and Vonnegut--Ann Beattie, E. L. Doctorow, Gail Godwin, Stephen King, Tim O'Brien, Jayne Anne Phillips, John Updike, and Richard Yates) read from their works in a public benefit for Dubus. For this he expressed himself as "abidingly grateful." Additional support, financial and otherwise, was received, including, in the summer of 1988, a MacArthur fellowship.

Dubus began to rebound from the traumas to his well being: Thursday night workshops held in his home allowed him to meet with and encourage young writers and even to allow them the opportunity to critique his work in progress. Dubus's first story collection appearing after his accident, Selected Stories (1988), was well-received critically and by readers. It was followed up three years later by Broken Vessels, Dubus's first collection of essays. Broken Vessels contained pieces related to his accident and its aftermath, as well as to other personal and social questions.

The last two major collections from Dubus were both published by Knopf: Dancing after Hours (1996) and Meditations from a Movable Chair (1998). The former was his first short fiction collection in eight years and brought him the Rea Award for the Short Story as well as a broader readership. In a 1996 interview Dubus reflected on his life-altering experiences of the preceding decade and observed "my condition increased my empathy and rid me of my fear of disability and misfortune." Meditations was Dubus's second and final collection of essays, one that dealt thoughtfully with a wide range of topics.

Andre Dubus died unexpectedly at his Haverill home on 24 February 1999, and was laid to rest in Haverhill's Greenwood Cemetery.

In the years following his death two films have been made from Dubus's fiction. The 2001 feature In the Bedroom was based on his 1979 short story "Killings," and "We Don't Live Here Anymore" (2004) used two Dubus novellas, We Don't Live Here Anymore (1975) and "Adultery" (1977), as its literary sources.


In addition to material found within the Andre Dubus Papers, the following sources were used:

"Andre Dubus"   Contemporary Authors Online, http://galenet.galegroup.com (accessed 3 January 2012)

"Andre Dubus"   Dictionary of Literary Biography, http://galenet.galegroup.com (accessed 20 December 2011)

Gussow, Mel. "Andre Dubus, 62, Celebrated for Short Stories"   The New York Times, http://nytimes.com (accessed 20 January 2012)


The papers of Andre Dubus span the years 1925 to 2001 and comprise notebooks containing drafts of short stories and non-fiction, story ideas and character notes, along with family correspondence and a series of journals in which are recorded thoughts, personal and religious exercises performed, and housekeeping notes. Some biographical and critical material in the form of clippings and periodical issues is present.

The arrangement of these papers is one formulated at the Ransom Center and is presented in four series. Series I. Works, 1955-1998, comprises three subseries: Subseries A. Notebooks, 1975-1998 (6 boxes), Subseries B. Typescripts, 1963-1998 (1.5 boxes), and Subseries C. Short Works Published in Periodicals, 1955-1998 (1.5 boxes). Following are Series II. Family Correspondence and Papers, 1932-1999 (5 boxes), Series III. Personal, 1955-1999 (7 boxes), and Series IV. Works by Others, 1986-1997 (2 boxes).

The notebooks kept by Andre Dubus comprising Subseries A of the Works Series I contain drafts of fiction and prose works, along with occasional character notes, plot ideas, and poems. Multiple drafts are present in many cases, and occasionally portions of a single draft will be found in two or more different notebooks. Drafts begun and never finished, some of substantial length, are also found here.

Early work is less fully represented in the notebooks than Dubus's later writing, especially after about 1988. For Selected Stories (1988) only three of the twenty-three stories in that collection can be identified in the notebooks. For Broken Vessels (1991) seven of the twenty-two stories appear as complete or partial manuscripts in the notebooks, along with six more as typescripts. For Dancing after Hours (1996), however, nine of the fourteen stories are in the notebooks as manuscripts.

Note that there is some crossover between these literary notebooks and Dubus's journals found in the Personal series. Some literary notes are to be found in the journals, just as phone numbers or shopping lists may well turn up in a notebook.

The typescripts in Subseries B date mainly from 1985 to 1998, and exist as photocopies in most cases. Some of these photocopies are of original typescripts bearing handwritten notes, while others have had such notes added to the photocopies, usually by Dubus. Some drafts found here represent variant texts.

Subseries C. Short Works Published in Periodicals, is arranged alphabetically by the title of the Dubus piece. These works range from 1968 to 1998, except for Dubus's "The Way I Feel" column in the McNeese State College student newspaper (circa 1955) and the short story "Vendetta," which appeared in 1958.

The letters Dubus wrote to his parents between 1954 and 1978 form the major portion of the Family Correspondence and Papers series. These represent about 60% of the five boxes forming the series and are both lengthy and revealing, often discussing his writing and family life, along with comments on books read, films seen, and contemporary American life generally.

Letters from Dubus to others are not numerous, though there is a group written to fellow Iowa Writers' Workshop graduate Roger Rath. Also present is a detailed account of his June 1974 visit to Lake Charles in the form of a sixty-seven page epistolary diary sent to one of his students at Bradford College.

The series otherwise contains a folder of documents and correspondence that give some view of Andre Dubus Sr.'s public and professional life, along with other family correspondence to Katherine Dubus and a group of school records for Dubus's youngest daughters Cadence and Madeleine.

The material present in the Personal series ranges in date from 1955 to 1999, but little predating 1985 is to be found. The most important category is Andre Dubus's fourteen journals for the years 1985 to 1999. These contain notes on daily activities (exercise routines, novenas said, words written), lists of expenditures, shopping lists, phone numbers, and the like.

The reviews and interviews found in the series are not numerous but do include a group of early newspaper biographical items on Dubus collected by his mother. The folders of honors and recognition include the diploma from Merrimack College received in conjunction with his honorary doctorate, as well as the certificate which accompanied his MacArthur fellowship. The remainder of the series is broad in range but generally thin in coverage: financial records present are mostly bank statements, a few documents on publishing contracts and royalties, and various periodical issues.

The final series in Andre Dubus's papers, Works by Others, contains works by Dubus's literary contemporaries, friends, students, and family. Most of these are short fiction or non-fiction works in typescript; two (James Lee Burke's Lost Get-back Boogie and John Smolens's Amphisbaena) are novels. Accompanying the printed works are four religious icons by Dubus's friend Geoffrey P. Moran.

Following the Index of Correspondents there is additionally an Index of Titles and First Lines. This latter index is not exhaustive, but it is hoped it will provide a useful means of access to works, story ideas, and characters created by Andre Dubus.


The Ransom Center's Sound Recordings Collection retains a number of noncommercial audio cassettes, including Dubus reading drafts of his stories, an interview and a review of Broken Vessels transcribed from radio broadcasts and others. Several printed books from his library and also present in the Center's collections.