David R. Godine, Publisher has more than 500 titles in print, including works by celebrated authors whose careers have taken decades to bear fruit, such as Nobel laureates J.M.G. Le Clézio and Patrick Modiano. Yet in the nearly half-century of the Boston-based house’s existence, it hasn’t relaunched a book—until now.
Godine is reissuing the works of Andre Dubus with the publication of three short story collections: We Don’t Live Here Anymore (June), The Winter Father (June), and The Cross Country Runner (Sept.). The collections, which feature writings by Dubus from 1966 to his death in 1999, have reset interiors and new cover art. The third volume also includes stories previously published only in periodicals. In addition, each book has an introduction, written by authors Ann Beattie, Richard Russo, and Tobias Wolff, respectively.
The project is the brainchild of Joshua Bodwell, who runs the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. In 2016, Bodwell took note of the relaunching of a number of writers—including Lucia Berlin, James Salter, and Joy Williams—whose writing, he said, “had been languishing in certain ways.”
“I realized that the last repackaging of Dubus had been many years ago,” Bodwell said. Though Dubus’s sales have been steady and he has a devoted readership among MFA teachers and students, he has had little in the way of a general audience. As a longtime reader of Godine books, Bodwell had profiled the press for a feature in Poets & Writers in 2005 and knew of its long-standing relationship with Dubus.
Bodwell, who wrote a 2008 piece entitled “The Art of Reading Andre Dubus,” decided to approach publisher David Godine with the idea of reissuing Dubus. “The time is perfect, given all these writer’s writers having moments,” he told Godine, who agreed.
Godine first read Dubus in 1974, when agent Phillip Spitzer handed him a copy of Separate Flights in a brown paper bag over lunch in New York City. Godine read it all night, and he called Spitzer the following morning and acquired the manuscript outright.
Dubus, who would only pen a handful of longer works in his career, “thought it was something of a miracle that anyone would buy the book without the promise of a novel forthcoming,” Godine said. Dubus published with the press for the rest of his life, even when more lucrative offers from large publishers were on the table.
“Dubus was so anomalous,” Godine said. “He was really from the South. He took the Louisiana part of his life and what he spoke to was the Northeast experience. Thirty years before Boston became a city on steroids, these towns were dying,” he added, speaking of the New England river and mill towns that feature heavily in Dubus’s writings. “You saw that. You read a story like ‘The Fat Girl’ and you really heard the dialect of Haverhill and the North Shore and connected it with a universal humanity and with a real sympathy, especially for women.”
George Gibson, executive editor at Grove, was with Godine from 1974 to 1985 and knew Dubus well, attending every Red Sox opening day with him for years. When Bodwell started his work to relaunch Dubus’s writing, Godine put him in touch with Gibson so that the latter could share his experiences of knowing and working with Dubus.
“It’s thrilling to see,” Gibson said, noting that new readers will encounter a uniqueness in Dubus. “There’s an enormous humanity in his characters. They are every man, every person, every woman. They are enormously human. They’re very real—painfully so at times. They reveal all of their foibles and weaknesses in powerful ways. I think Andre is truly one of the great writers of the latter half of the 20th century. He’s one of the finest short story writers we’ve ever had.”
In reissuing the books, Bodwell found a welcoming community of writers at the ready to support his effort, beginning with Dubus’s son, the novelist Andre Dubus III, who Bodwell said was “incredibly helpful” in securing and organizing the material. All three authors who were asked to write introductions said yes right away, as did a cadre of writers who were asked to provide blurbs, including Molly Antopol, Richard Ford, Peter Orner, and Elizabeth Strout.
That community of writers is an extension of the one that Dubus cultivated in his lifetime, Godine noted, recalling the 1987 fund-raiser that was arranged to help pay Dubus’s medical bills after he was hit by a car while attempting to help two injured motorists outside of Boston. In four nights of readings in Cambridge, Mass., authors including Beattie, E.L. Doctorow, John Irving, Gail Godwin, Stephen King, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut, and Richard Yates raised $86,000 for Dubus.
To promote the reissues, Godine has arranged for Beattie’s introduction to appear in the Paris Review, and Richard Russo’s will be published in the New Yorker. In addition, the publisher is hosting a June 20 launch for the book at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, where filmmaker Todd Field will screen In the Bedroom, which is based on the story “Killings” by Dubus, followed by a q&a. For booksellers, the publisher is offering a free copy to each bookstore that buys six copies or more of the new editions.
As he prepares to reissue the books, Godine reflected on his long history with Dubus. “If we are a success with an author, we don’t [usually] hold on to that author for very long. We kept Andre because Andre insisted on it.”