Andre Dubus III

The novelists Richard Russo and Andre Dubus III might have first met each other at the Newburyport Book Festival in 2006, but they might not have — they hit it off so well that neither of them can quite remember. They’ve been friends ever since. Little wonder — both are prolific and supremely talented novelists with a strong deterministic streak.

Russo, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls, is at work on a memoir of his family’s lives in the grim factory town of Gloversville, New York. Last summer, Russo published an excerpt in Granta. Dubus, the National Book Award-winning author of The House of Sand and Fog, released his own memoir earlier this year. Townie concerns fighting and the clash between college boys and working-class heroes.

Both will appear at the Boston Book Festival this weekend. Dubus will present in a panel about masculinity, and Russo will read from his story, “The Whore’s Child,” selected for this year’s One Story, One City program.

RR: I knew Andre’s work before I knew Andre. When you know the writer’s work before you know the person, you always have a sense of knowing them longer than you have. Sometimes, you can meet someone whose work you’ve admired for a long time and you think you’re going to be soul mates, and it just doesn’t work out.

It’s really rather strange when it does. I won’t speak for Andre here, but when we did meet and started talking about our lives and our work, we did have that feeling, I think. Not only that we could talk forever, but in some way or another, we had been talking forever—literature, among other things, is a conversation. On those rare occasions when you meet someone with whom you’ve been having a conversation for a decade and discover that this conversation can go even farther than you dare hope, it’s quite wonderful, and also, I think, Andre, quite rare. Do you?

AD: I do. I also have to say you cook like nobody’s business. We begin the dinner — listen to this — grilled littlenecks on a barbecue grill with nothing on then (you get the incredible nice accent of the barbecue smoke and the clams), then grilled figs, before you get to the grilled vegetables and lamb. This man, he can write, but he can also cook, and that makes him great.

I was a little intimidated [when we met] because he’s older and farther down the road in his craft and in establishing himself as a writer. . . but that went away after about three minutes. I almost felt, having read Russo’s fiction that he’s already giving me a piece of me — there’s something about me in this guy’s work.  Reading Rick was just so comfortable because he’s one of these guys in between, one of these liminal guys who’s blue collar but not blue collar, who’s a professor but not a professor, who’s a writer through and through because he’s fallen through the cracks like me, and he can cook.

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