February 09, 2010
Winter With the Writers, A Festival of the Literary Arts continued Feb. 4 with writer Andre Dubus III.
He began the evening with a reading from his upcoming book, Townie, which he describes as “an accidental memoir” about being raised by a single mother in Milton, Massachusetts. He dedicated the reading to “all the young writers here at Rollins.”
“I’m 50 years old and am in the age bracket where I was 10 years younger than going through Vietnam,” he said. “A whole generation of us were too young to fight and we felt like we fell through the cracks. It was a crazy time…I’ve been trying to write about this time for years.”
Dubus also spoke about his 1999 novel The House of Sand and Fog¸ which was later made into an Academy Award-winning movie starring Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly.
Dubus charmed the audience with stories about how all of the attention he got post-The House of Sand and Fog was both exciting and humbling. He described the time he was asked to take part in a writers’ panel in Los Angeles.
“I was on this panel with Pulitzer Prize winners and National Book Award winners. The moderator asked us all what our themes were. I watched as ‘Mr. Pulitzer’ to my left and ‘Ms. National Book Award’ winner to my right comfortably explained their themes…and I panicked. When he got to me and asked me what my theme was I said, ‘Beats me.’ Everyone nervously laughed and he asked again and I said, ‘I’m not kidding. I haven’t the faintest.’”
After the reading, Dubus sat down with Winter With the Writers Director Carol Frost for a question and answer session with the audience.
When asked by an audience member if he regretted not taking formal writing classes, Dubus exclaimed, “How did you know!? Does it show!?”
He said that although he doesn’t believe taking formal writing classes would have affected his writing much, he confessed that when he is around academicians (as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Massachusetts Lowell) “there is not a meeting during which I don’t feel like a fake.”
He discussed the influence of his father Andre Dubus, also a writer, on his work.
“For years I denied he had an influence because my mom did so much to raise us,” he said. “But of course he was a huge presence. When I was little, we had to be quiet around the house while dad wrote. I remember I said to another kid once, ‘When does your dad write?’ I miss him a lot.”
When asked why the flashback technique appeals to him, Dubus explained, “We live in images. I don’t think we actually think when we’re thinking. I think it’s organic to think of images, of snapshots and memories, and that’s why I write that way.”
Dubus shared that The House of Sand and Fog went to 24 publishers over two years before it found a home, and he encouraged young writers to keep at their craft.
“If writing is nothing else, it’s opening up yourself to what comes,” he said. “It’s an act of discovery.”
Events include master classes at 4 p.m. and readings, on-stage interviews and book signings at 8 p.m. Master classes, readings and discussions are free and open to the public. Master classes will be held in the Bush Auditorium and author readings and interviews will be held in Tiedtke Concert Hall. Guests are encouraged to arrive early for the 8 p.m. readings, as seating is limited. For more information, visit the Winter With the Writers Web site at rollins.edu/winterwiththewriters or call 407-646-2666.