Books: Sad Songs

THE TIMES ARE NEVER SO BAD by Andre Dubus Godine; 180 pages; $13.95

At several moments in this collection of eight short stories and a novella, characters turn on a radio or record player and listen to country and western music: Crystal Gayle, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson. Author Andre Dubus, 47, makes this C & W name dropping seem more than a bid for easy topicality. He writes about people whose lives evoke sad songs and wailing pedal steel guitars. They work at checkout counters, wait on tables, tend bar or fry hamburgers at fast-food outlets. All are somehow stranded,...

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