There are certain places in America that mean something, and Massachusetts could still be said to be one of them.

It is a place where the shadows of abandoned textile mills loom over the sidewalks of sleepy college towns, where the weeds of urban neglect creep up through cobblestones as old as the Commonwealth, and where a young writer can stumble drunk out his back door into the darkness of a New England summer night and find himself standing among the ghosts of Hawthorne, Melville, and Henry James.

In the streets of Haverhill, Massachusetts, the writer Andre Dubus (1936–1999) did precisely that, spending the better part of thirty years writing and teaching in that north-of-Boston town.

In the editor’s note to a new three-volume collection of Dubus’s work (the third of which is forthcoming), the author Joshua...


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