Monday, March 25, 2002

One more Oscar tie-in

As might have been predicted, Sunday's LA Times Book Review selections were books related to movies somehow. One review that interested me was by Tobias Wolff of In the Bedroom, a collection of short stories by Andre Dubus.

Wolff says of Dubus's short stories:
Reading through them ensemble, I was struck by their plenitude. Part of the pleasure of writing short stories is learning what you can live without. The form relies on an acute, watchful reader--an aficionado, really--who is insulted by fat explanation, fat description, by anything reducible to something more essential; but the consciousness of that scrutiny can lead to a chill, starved sort of story in which the writer seems hesitant to tell you anything at all for fear of being common. I know; I've written a few.

Dubus never succumbed to this anorexic impulse. His language is full-throated, and he's not afraid to linger on the undramatic, even languorous moments in which we define ourselves--conversation over a barbecue, a divorced father driving home alone after dropping off his kids. Dubus takes his time; his stories, like his sentences, tend to run long. But that vigilant reader prowling the flock for bloated stragglers will never catch Dubus out, because at his most complex, he is still irreducible.
I first learned about Tobias Wolff when the bookkeeper at a company I used to work for told me she was reading his autobiography, This Boy's Life: A Memoir. She worked at the company's office in New York, but recognized one of the towns mentioned in the book, Sedro-Woolley, Washington, because that was my home address. Later, when a movie was made of the book, the movie was filmed in Concrete, Washington, another location in the story. (Yes, the town was named after the concrete plant that once operated there.)

My first job after college involved working at a social services outreach office in Concrete a few days a week. (See last paragraph of my Oct. 28, 2001 post.)

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