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Moving Toward Redemption

Spirituality and Disability in the Late Writings of Andre Dubus (1936–1999)

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Andrea Ivanov-Craig

American short-story writer Andre Dubus (1936–1999) was a “writer’s writer.” His acclaimed collections of short stories and essays involve one or all of three thematic discourses – that of the Catholic Church as center of meaning and value, the symbolic and healing power of rites and ritual on the human heart, and the ethical and spiritual dilemmas that drive human experience. “Like Chekhov’s” reports the Village Voice, “Dubus’s best stories contain the arc of a whole life in the language of specific moments.” Tobias Wolff summarized, “Andre Dubus is a master.” In 1986, however, Dubus lost the use of his legs when he attempted to help a stranded motorist on the highway.  The spiritual, physical and emotional suffering which ensued kept him from writing for a time but eventually led to his authoring 17 stories before his death in 1999. Moving Toward Redemption is a critical six-chapter study of these stories as they are united as capstones to his previous work, as they participate in the Catholic cycle of sin, suffering and sacramentality, and as they individually address the various transformations of his life in the aftermath of the accident. Moving Toward Redemption is the only book on Dubus’s writing since Thomas Kennedy’s A Study of the Short Fiction (1988). It is designed for use in courses on short fiction, religion and literature, life writing, genre study, and disability studies. It suggests ways to negotiate the conflicts and tensions between Christian and secular approaches to disability studies.

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Chapter One: Introduction

Extract

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CHAPTER ONE

Introduction

 

American short-story writer Andre Dubus once told his friend, Father Patrick Samway, that he viewed “the whole world as a Catholic” (“Interview with Andre Dubus,” 22 July 1986, Part I, 129). His acclaimed fiction and essays involve one or all of three thematic discourses—that of the Catholic Church as center of meaning and value, the symbolic and healing power of rites and ritual on the human heart, and the ethical and spiritual dilemmas that drive human experience. Dubus has been favorably reviewed by Tobias Wolff, John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, and several publications by popular, scholarly, and literary presses. Such comments range from the Village Voice’s review – “Like Chekhov’s, Dubus’s best stories contain the arc of a whole life in the language of specific moments” (Powers) – to Tobias Wolff’s unqualified admiration: “Andre Dubus is a master” (xiii). As well as winning Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships, Dubus merited several awards, such as the Rea Award for excellence in short fiction, and the Jean L. Stein award from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Over the course of his career, four of his short stories were anthologized in the Best American Short Stories series, two more won the Pushcart Prize, and, in 1997, his last collection of short fiction, Dancing After Hours, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

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