Stuart Dybek is often mentioned in the same breath as Saul Bellow, Nelson Algren, Sherwood Andersen—male writers of a certain era who wrote realistic, place-based fiction. And yet when I began reading Dybek, I couldn’t shake the feeing that something different was going on.
We’ve all had the experience of knowing we recorded, somewhere, a great line or perfect image, only to futilely search for it. Could it be that unconsciously we don’t want to recover that perfect line? Because when we finally do come across it, weeks or months later, we discover that the exact phrasing doesn’t fit the story we’re telling or the character we’ve developed. What fits is the approximate version, conjured from the shadows of memory. To be truly “found” or recovered for creative purposes, memory may indeed depend on the process of transmutation.
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