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Townie

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An acclaimed novelist reflects on his violent past and a lifestyle that threatened to destroy him - until he was saved by writing. After their parents divorced in the 1970s, Andre Dubus III and his three siblings grew up with their exhausted working mother in a depressed Massachusetts mill town saturated with drugs and crime. To protect himself and those he loved from stree An acclaimed novelist reflects on his violent past and a lifestyle that threatened to destroy him - until he was saved by writing. After their parents divorced in the 1970s, Andre Dubus III and his three siblings grew up with their exhausted working mother in a depressed Massachusetts mill town saturated with drugs and crime. To protect himself and those he loved from street violence, Andre learned to use his fists so well that he was even scared of himself. He was on a fast track to getting killed - or killing someone else. He signed on as a boxer. Nearby, his father, an eminent author, taught on a college campus and took the kids out on Sundays. The clash of worlds couldn't have been more stark - or more difficult for a son to communicate to a father. Only by becoming a writer himself could Andre begin to bridge the abyss and save himself. His memoir is a riveting, visceral, profound meditation on physical violence and the failures and triumphs of love.


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An acclaimed novelist reflects on his violent past and a lifestyle that threatened to destroy him - until he was saved by writing. After their parents divorced in the 1970s, Andre Dubus III and his three siblings grew up with their exhausted working mother in a depressed Massachusetts mill town saturated with drugs and crime. To protect himself and those he loved from stree An acclaimed novelist reflects on his violent past and a lifestyle that threatened to destroy him - until he was saved by writing. After their parents divorced in the 1970s, Andre Dubus III and his three siblings grew up with their exhausted working mother in a depressed Massachusetts mill town saturated with drugs and crime. To protect himself and those he loved from street violence, Andre learned to use his fists so well that he was even scared of himself. He was on a fast track to getting killed - or killing someone else. He signed on as a boxer. Nearby, his father, an eminent author, taught on a college campus and took the kids out on Sundays. The clash of worlds couldn't have been more stark - or more difficult for a son to communicate to a father. Only by becoming a writer himself could Andre begin to bridge the abyss and save himself. His memoir is a riveting, visceral, profound meditation on physical violence and the failures and triumphs of love.

30 review for Townie

  1. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Smith

    The most interesting and moving memoir I’ve ever read. This book tracks the life - particularly the early life - of this excellent writer through a series of roughly chronological memories and anecdotes. Brought up in tough New England towns, he tells of how he was the recipient of regular beatings from the local hard cases. This pattern continued as he moved from one run down area to the next until he decided to change things by developing his own body, through boxing and weight lifting, to ena The most interesting and moving memoir I’ve ever read. This book tracks the life - particularly the early life - of this excellent writer through a series of roughly chronological memories and anecdotes. Brought up in tough New England towns, he tells of how he was the recipient of regular beatings from the local hard cases. This pattern continued as he moved from one run down area to the next until he decided to change things by developing his own body, through boxing and weight lifting, to enable his transformation into a street brawler feared by others. The author's father left home for one of his many female conquests early in the life of Dubus and the relationship between father and son is a strong thread throughout. The journey from fighter to manual worker, whilst flitting in and out of education, to his development into an award winning writer is documented with ruthless and uncompromising honesty. It's an inspiring and truly uplifting tale - I loved it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

    I have never read any of Dubus' books, because back when he was popular I Didn't Do Tragic. His memoir got good buzz, though, so I decided to give it a try. Let's just say that I don't plan to read any of his fictional books, ever. I feel bad for Dubus. He got a raw deal, with a father who couldn’t be bothered to spend time with his children and a mom who was too busy and exhausted to pay adequate attention to them. With the exception of his younger sister, Dubus' siblings were adrift and had pro I have never read any of Dubus' books, because back when he was popular I Didn't Do Tragic. His memoir got good buzz, though, so I decided to give it a try. Let's just say that I don't plan to read any of his fictional books, ever. I feel bad for Dubus. He got a raw deal, with a father who couldn’t be bothered to spend time with his children and a mom who was too busy and exhausted to pay adequate attention to them. With the exception of his younger sister, Dubus' siblings were adrift and had problems with drugs. His naturally small size made him a bully-magnet in the rough neighborhoods he grew up in after his parents' divorce. And despite all that he was able to make something of himself and not die young and violently like so many he knew. That doesn't mean I like his memoir, though. It commits the cardinal sin of books: it was boring. Horribly, horribly boring. Not that his life wasn't compelling. Growing up in the bad part of town led to some craziness and horror and childhood (especially one with so many siblings) is natural fodder. But Dubus' writing style made everything that should have been interesting incredibly ponderous, dull and choppy. It's even more surprising given the fact that there were so many fights that took place (Dubus bulked himself up as a teen and had a short-fuse and a childhood surrounded by violence...there were a lot of bar/street fights).But the fights were semi-random and I could never understand nor bring myself to care how they started or who they were with. Truthfully, it mostly seemed that Dubus just attacked people whenever they stepped out of line or he was feeling upset, so there wasn’t really any rhyme or reason to begin with and his writing style just muddled things. The book was mostly chronological but sometimes wasn’t, which was confusing. There were so many people drifting in and out with no real sense of who they were that I stopped bothering to keep track. Even his own siblings never come into focus. There’s a vague sense of them: Jeb is the artsy, suicidal one; Suzanne is the classic Little Girl Lost, using drugs and sex to fill the void created by daddy issues; Nicole is the studious one, hiding in her room from the broken world and dysfunctional family she’s trapped in. But that’s just the surface and I can tell you nothing more about any of them, especially Nicole who I was most interested in (she seemed the most together of them all and I’m curious how she did it). There are giant holes in the timeline. Dubus is interested in a Persian girl and then suddenly he’s moved to Texas and no mention is made of how their relationship ended. The middle school art teacher who is sleeping with Dubus' brother Jeb (while Jeb was her student!) randomly appears and just as suddenly she’s gone from the narrative. Dubus is suddenly a parole officer (or something…)! Dubus is suddenly married! Dubus decided to go to college despite being a punk who according to the narrative had little interest in school! WHAT WAS GOING ON?!? Also, I hated Andre Dubus senior more than I hated any other villain I've read about this year (and I've read some dark stuff). Maybe he wasn't supposed to be a villain, but I feel like he was one and I found him incredibly despicable. I probably hate him more knowing that he was real, while the other villains I've read about recently were fictional. Dubus senior was a horrible, horrible man with few redeeming qualities. He was the worst father someone could be short of being actually abusive. He was a chronic philanderer who couldn’t stop himself—and truthfully, likely never tried—from screwing his students even when he was married. He was a drunk, a man-child, a cheater. He was neglectful of those he should have loved and cared for and almost pathologically selfish. And this is even through Andre Junior’s vaguely sympathetic (though hurt) lense! Some people like senior’s writing (I will bet you I would find it boring and pretentious) and he was apparently charming and willing to help strangers, so I’ll give him that. So I guess he had some redeeming qualities, but I still find him one of the most miserable people I’ve read about this year. I wish he was fictional. In the end, Dubus managed to reveal everything without revealing anything. He writes about painful parts of his youth that I think are brave to reveal but never gets close enough to give the reader a sense of anything. I hate to say it about a professional author, but I wish someone else had written his life story.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    The major focus of this soul-baring memoir of Andre Dubus III is in Haverhill, Massachusetts, a city bordering New Hampshire, in northeastern Massachusetts. It was a former mill town and industrial city, which in the 19th and early half of the 20th century was known as the “Queen Slipper City” because of its tanneries and shoe manufacturing. They boasted that 1/10 of the shoes made in the US were made there. It is located on the Merrimack River. I lived there for a few years and found it to be a The major focus of this soul-baring memoir of Andre Dubus III is in Haverhill, Massachusetts, a city bordering New Hampshire, in northeastern Massachusetts. It was a former mill town and industrial city, which in the 19th and early half of the 20th century was known as the “Queen Slipper City” because of its tanneries and shoe manufacturing. They boasted that 1/10 of the shoes made in the US were made there. It is located on the Merrimack River. I lived there for a few years and found it to be a “cultural wasteland”. The one redeeming factor was that it had a reasonable library. My presence there was during the waning years of the shoe manufacturing, prior to the Dubus Family’s arrival there.Most of the surroundings had not yet become as described in his account. The history of this area plays a major role in the status of the city and in Andre's development. Dubus’ parents divorced in the 1970's, leaving the mother to cope with 4 children and meager finances. His mother was hardworking, never able to keep up with the bills, cooking, laundry, or actual care of her children. Following the divorce, their father maintained sporadic contact with them and tried to help financially, but had his own difficulties. His relationship with his children was superficial, with occasional glimmers of interest. Life for these youngsters was difficult, filled with violence, drugs, roaming the crime riddled streets without supervision day and night. The city had truly become a wasteland, with vacant lots, boarded up factories and stores and homes crumbling. It was in this climate that Dubus grew up, filled with rage inspired by fear. He frequently experienced feelings of emptiness and absence. His solution was to become more -stronger, better physically developed, able to conquer even the toughest boys. As he grew older, he often realized that his near compulsion to do body building was so that noone would hurt him, or those he loved. There are many features of this memoir worth sharing, but it would be best to read it in context. Dubus' writing is riveting and straightforward. Without adornment he has conveyed the smells, the sounds and the visual assaults for the reader. It was also a pleasure learning more about his father, a talented, revered author in his own right.** Several of his books of short stories have impressed and even awed me. Viewing the development of the relationship of father and son as the narrative progressed was compelling.It was complex, yet touching to observe the difficult transition of the young, hardened boy to the accomplished man he became. I have admired and respected Dubus' writing and can now see the roots of the difficulties his characters in his books experience. Reading this memoir was often unsettling and sometimes tedious, reviewing his many fights and brutal encounters. It has given me a different view of violence and the confrontations faced by the perpetrators. I think about the courage that it took him to write this book, to bare his soul, to reveal his emotions and the ability to finally and carefully subdue that violent, needy child inside of himself. ADDENDUM Although I have probably discussed enough about Andre Dubus III, one particular feature of his early life has remained with me. The idea of how much his childhood lacked is demonstrated when he attended his first baseball game at age 19! He was amazed that grown men were playing a game and thousands were at Fenway Park watching them! He had no concept of sports and games at all. His friend had to explain the most basic rudiments to him. ** Dancing After Hours: Stories and In the Bedroom are two sensitive books by Andre, Sr., which I read, but he wrote many more.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    This is a rough book. It is about violence in all its forms, except war and genocide. Violence on a personal level. If swear words and rape and drugs are going to put you off, well then maybe this isn't a book for you. But read on. It is also about a dysfunctional family. I don't like dysfunctional family stories, or that is what I thought! But hey there is an exception to every rule. Maybe I so very much liked it because it is no story; it is autobiographical! I also know that I liked it becaus This is a rough book. It is about violence in all its forms, except war and genocide. Violence on a personal level. If swear words and rape and drugs are going to put you off, well then maybe this isn't a book for you. But read on. It is also about a dysfunctional family. I don't like dysfunctional family stories, or that is what I thought! But hey there is an exception to every rule. Maybe I so very much liked it because it is no story; it is autobiographical! I also know that I liked it because of the writing. Andre Dubus III, can write. A good author can write about any topic and this is a good author. Excellent writing. Descriptive so you see and feel the atmosphere and tension of the scene. He describes the accouterments of a bar, a bloody body after a fight, and even some humor is thrown in. It is said, "In one of those games with a ball in it....." As a child, Andre NEVER went to a ball game, be it baseball or football or tennis. Absolutely no ball games! How could he? His single mother worked; his father saw him so infrequently that he simply was never there. Money? Poor; he was lucky if he had a pair of shoes. Dialogs are pitch-perfect. The writing is about rough situations but each word is absolutely perfect. I feel I better understand why someone would turn to violence. The author turned to violence to protect himself and his family, and then that violence took over, and where would it ever end? That is the question he comes to. That is the question that the reader looks at. That is the central question of the book, but you do not accuse and you understand and you do not merely place blame. The book is all about family relationships. Jeez, what we do to each other! The reason why this book is so good is that even if you are not a violent person yourself, you understand why one could become violent and you stop accusing and blaming and looking down on those who have taken that misstep. And where does it end? In more violence? In death? But you know he is now a writer so read on. The audiobook is narrated by the author himself. It couldn't have been better. He is telling you how he felt. You feel his sorrow and anger, confusion and questions. He is telling his story, and no one else should tell his story but him. I shouldn't have liked this book, but I certainly did. Good book. Very, very good book. Definitely deserves four stars.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Neil White

    Dubus's novels are difficult to read without getting worked up into a frenzy that involves symptoms not unlike severe stress or paranoia. At least for me, anyway. Shortness of breath, increased heart rate, even sweats - these things happen. His memoir does not include the same scenes of riveting tension and personal anguish that populate his other works, but I found myself still getting worked up reading this - especially the early scenes of his torment as a young child. A skinny kid, raised by a Dubus's novels are difficult to read without getting worked up into a frenzy that involves symptoms not unlike severe stress or paranoia. At least for me, anyway. Shortness of breath, increased heart rate, even sweats - these things happen. His memoir does not include the same scenes of riveting tension and personal anguish that populate his other works, but I found myself still getting worked up reading this - especially the early scenes of his torment as a young child. A skinny kid, raised by a single mother, growing up in some of the roughest neighborhoods Massachusetts has to offer, tormented by bullies every day - Dubus eventually learned to fight back. He learned how to fight back a little too well, and in the process discovered he had quite a bit of rage in him. (Read through and it's easy to understand why.) At it's beginning this is in some ways a typical growing-up-rough memoir - the poverty, the bullying, the almost religious weight training until he doesn't get picked on very much (all that's missing is a montage song, really), but it's carried along by Dubus's sincere engaging prose that keeps it from being anything but standard or boring. He doesn't stop there, though. Because this memoir carries him through to adulthood, and because he doesn't pull any punches on himself (or his victims [sorry]), we have his inner turmoil with what all this anger and violence does when it transforms into guilt. I was surprised (pleasantly so) when this became as much a meditation on violence and its consequences (not only on the body, but the soul), as a chronicle of boyhood. But while that's a large portion of the book, Dubus's relationship with his father was, at least for me, the most rewarding and touching part. Having read both Andre Dubus Sr and Dubus III, I often wondered what their relationship with each other was - competitive? Supportive? Abusive? Nonexistent? I was interested to find out it was hardly simple enough to boil down to any one adjective. Dubus Sr left little Andre's mother when he was young, but there was some continued interaction. The elder Andre seemed like a difficult man, sometimes quiet, but often passionate and loud. Thankfully he was not abusive, but his absence on a day-to-day level no doubt had an impact. I think the young, skinny, frightened Andre could have used a strong, supportive, 'manly' father figure in his life. Instead he had a distant stranger who obviously loved them, but struggled with expressing that. This is beautifully expressed in the opening pages of the book, where young Andre, desperate from some one-on-one time with his father, agrees to go on a weekend run with him. The problem is he has no good shoes, and having never seriously run before, has no idea the lengths his father intends to go. By the end of the 10+ mile run, Andre is struggling to keep up with his father - he is out of breath, and the shoes have devastated his feet so much that his socks are soaked in blood. He never complains, though, and finishes the run. Dubus's relationship with his father resonates throughout the book, becomes the heart & soul of the last third, as younger Andre comes into his own as a writer, both as a way to escape the plague of anger & violence, and as a way to somehow connect with his absent father. They see more of each other, but it is in more of a 'buddy' capacity than 'father & son.' Nevertheless, it was touching to see both of them struggle, and even though it's through the lens of younger Andre's pen, one gets the sense he is genuinely telling the truth as he sees it - he doesn't always shy away from criticism, but he gives credit where credit is due. If you're unfamiliar with either Dubus's work, I might suggest reading some first, not only because both of them could easily be included in any discussion of America's finest contemporary writers, but also to perhaps get a sense of the characters in this story. This memoir is a fantastic read on many levels - a coming-of-age in rough circumstances tale, a meditation on the nature of violence, a story of father and son - but a knowledge of their work, and the glimpse into their personalities it provides, would definitely make this excellent book a richer experience. Andre Dubus III has a way with words that's difficult to pinpoint. 'House of Sand and Fog' and 'The Garden of Last Days' are two of the most gut-wrenching novels I've read, and while he may lack the stylistic flare of a Cormac McCarthy or James Joyce, there's something about the brutal sincerity and honest emotional choices of his character that puts the reader in the characters heart and head like few other writers could hope to do. 'Townie' may be a true story that lacks the confluence of various conflicting tragedies and circumstances that are the trademarks of his novels, but that brutal sincerity and honest emotion is still there. Reading this, it's easy to see where he gets it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elge

    I totally agree with Dwight Garner of the New York Times when he writes of this book, "Townie is a better, harder book than anything (Dubus III) has yet writer; it pays off on every bet that's been placed on him. A sleek muscle car of a memoir." The core theme of the memoir is men's, particularly his, relationship to violence. As a kid he was a victim of it. This part of the book was hard to read and I almost bailed out on the book because I wanted him to stop being a victim and stand up for hims I totally agree with Dwight Garner of the New York Times when he writes of this book, "Townie is a better, harder book than anything (Dubus III) has yet writer; it pays off on every bet that's been placed on him. A sleek muscle car of a memoir." The core theme of the memoir is men's, particularly his, relationship to violence. As a kid he was a victim of it. This part of the book was hard to read and I almost bailed out on the book because I wanted him to stop being a victim and stand up for himself. Then he does and the book really takes off. He becomes a tough guy with a reputation. He's "strong" and people are afraid of him which gives him power he's never had. But then he starts to see how violence is ruining his life and his relationships. To me, the most fascinating part of the book is how he works through and matures out of the need for violence as a way to create a sense of self. I think this would be great book to read in a high school literature class. I'd love to know what adolescents have to say about it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Like most of my books, I read this on my ipad and kindle. At one point when I was about to quit, I clicked to find I was 40% through the book. Do editors still exist? Who would allow the first 40% of a book to be little more than a series of school yard brawls, replete with description of injuries, names of malefactors, and explanation of grudges with thin strips of family life laid between. The idea of a memoir is not only to render a life but also to understand it. Although after 40%, the book Like most of my books, I read this on my ipad and kindle. At one point when I was about to quit, I clicked to find I was 40% through the book. Do editors still exist? Who would allow the first 40% of a book to be little more than a series of school yard brawls, replete with description of injuries, names of malefactors, and explanation of grudges with thin strips of family life laid between. The idea of a memoir is not only to render a life but also to understand it. Although after 40%, the book picked up--detailing a bit more of the writer's life as one of the severely neglected children of a famous writer--it still did not delve into how that neglect contributed to the depression expresses in rages, alcoholism and fist fights. I persevered to the end and when it was clear to even this disaffected reader that the fight went out of him just as his father became incapacitated, the writer didn't seem to get the connection. There are passages of great tenderness and mercy here, but they feel somehow unearned and unexamined. Although there are some lyrical passages in this book, it does not nearly measure up to The House of Sand and Fog--a book I loved and treasured both for its lyricism and the exploration of motive and personality. I am sure there is an equally good book somewhere in Townie, it just wasn't birthed properly.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dean

    I got two thirds of the way through this book and I surrended. If this was fiction, I would say that the main character is a damaged and flawed person with serious anger issues. Sadly, it is a biography and I just cannot care about a man who in his mid twenties needs to run around a town looking to beat up people for what he thinks are insults. Or looking for insults so he can get into a fight. No signs of redemption, although, since he wrote some good books later on one can assume he figures ou I got two thirds of the way through this book and I surrended. If this was fiction, I would say that the main character is a damaged and flawed person with serious anger issues. Sadly, it is a biography and I just cannot care about a man who in his mid twenties needs to run around a town looking to beat up people for what he thinks are insults. Or looking for insults so he can get into a fight. No signs of redemption, although, since he wrote some good books later on one can assume he figures out that life is more than late night bar room brawls. But I think I would be embarraassed to have lead this life, much less write it up and publish it. I am embarrassed to have kept reading for as long as I did thinking that at some point he would become interesting.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth (Alaska)

    First, I learned from his father's Wikipedia page, that His surname is pronounced "Duh-BYOOSE", with the accent falling on the second syllable, as in "profuse". Maybe you knew that already, but I had to look it up, because it was driving me nuts not to know for certain. Years ago, I read his House of Sand and Fog, and although I can't remember most of it, I do remember that I loved the prose, and that it was a very moving story. At the time I read it, I wasn't writing reviews or even notes for my First, I learned from his father's Wikipedia page, that His surname is pronounced "Duh-BYOOSE", with the accent falling on the second syllable, as in "profuse". Maybe you knew that already, but I had to look it up, because it was driving me nuts not to know for certain. Years ago, I read his House of Sand and Fog, and although I can't remember most of it, I do remember that I loved the prose, and that it was a very moving story. At the time I read it, I wasn't writing reviews or even notes for myself, but I expect the characterizations were pretty good and that is another reason I remember liking it, that I remember it at all. So, when I saw another book by him at my local library book sale, I was happy to pick it up. At that sale, I hardly even look at what the book is about if it is an author I want to read - why spend that time when paperbacks are only 50 cents? It *does* say "a memoir" on the cover, though. I like author biographies and autobiographies. I like learning about the people who are able to give me reading pleasure. Andre Dubus III had a very hard childhood. His parents divorced when he was 10, he and his 3 siblings raised by his now single mother. She didn't have the skills to have great earning power, and although she did get some child support, money was scarce. Andre remembers being always hungry, and the neighborhoods they lived in were filled with drugs and bullies. Andre is open about his feelings during this time, how he felt so inadequate. This is hard reading, though, of course, I knew it all came right because I'd read one of his books and had another open in front of me. It took him awhile to get "right", though, even after he turned to writing. The last ~100 pages include how he struggled with his writing. Years later I would read this definition of sincerity in Nadine Gordimer's novel A Son's Story: "Sincerity is never having an idea of oneself." I was still the boy who could not bear being perceived a certain way, a boy who'd learned to fight and get hurt or worse just so he would not be seen as weak. But what did being seen have to do with writing well? it was time to start seeing. I sat at the desk feeling small and self-absorbed and with little ability to do this one thing I felt pulled to do. But this negative self-scrutiny was just another form of insincerity; I had to disappear altogether.It seemed as if the first part of this memoir was as difficult to write as it was to read. And then the part that follows the above paragraph came more easily, when he writes more about his relationship with his writer father. This is quite good, though maybe not 5-stars good. I want to read more writing by both Andre Dubuses.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    It was like getting a tooth drilled or being hit over the head by the same damn bat. I'll pass on this one- thank you very much. The same scenes repeated endlessly. Hopelessness, cruelty, fear and abandonment abound in this book. It's a bleak tale and a place I choose not to visit any longer than reading the 67 pages I spent there. I've believed Dubus to be brilliant based on "House of Sand and Fog" but the writing in this book is meandering, inconclusive and confusing. Often I would read a sente It was like getting a tooth drilled or being hit over the head by the same damn bat. I'll pass on this one- thank you very much. The same scenes repeated endlessly. Hopelessness, cruelty, fear and abandonment abound in this book. It's a bleak tale and a place I choose not to visit any longer than reading the 67 pages I spent there. I've believed Dubus to be brilliant based on "House of Sand and Fog" but the writing in this book is meandering, inconclusive and confusing. Often I would read a sentence and feel like I had just read that same sentence, after looking back through the pages, I would indeed find the same sentence slightly altered in chapters prior. I also think my distaste for violence, competition and urban environments totally jaded my viewpoint of this book. I love stories that tell of the capacity of humans to endure and overcome adversity but in these types of stories there is usually an inner light within the protagonist and glimmer of hope, feelings of repentance or desire. Dubus tells a tale of desiring only to escape, get high and return the violence to those who bullied him. He writes as if detached and distant from the young man in the story. Another Good Read reviewer stated it beautifully "The focus for most of the book is on his horrible childhood and how weightlifting and fighting (street fighting, not boxing) gave him confidence. It's the sort of testosterone-heavy story that I usually avoid at all costs. I really could have used an adult perspective throughout the book—most of the time it's so claustrophobically inside his own adolescent head that it seems his adult self continues to think this way. Even when he has an "epiphany" towards the end, it comes off as ridiculous and makes me wonder if he ever actually grew up. Worse, the writing is awkward, meandering, and repetitive. It jumps back and forth through time for no reason except that it was badly edited. If this is the story that's been fighting to get out all this time, I'd think he'd spend a little more effort making it as good as his fiction.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Wow. It's eight o' clock on the last night of June. The grand children are in bed, and this is when I usually open up my book and read for the evening. The problem is that I finished "Townie" last night, and now I am achingly homesick for Haverhill. This is rather ridiculous, since (1) I have never been to Haverhill and (2) the town and the life that Dubus portrays, at great length and with much repetition, are as gritty, as violent, as unappealing as anyplace that one might imagine. This was hel Wow. It's eight o' clock on the last night of June. The grand children are in bed, and this is when I usually open up my book and read for the evening. The problem is that I finished "Townie" last night, and now I am achingly homesick for Haverhill. This is rather ridiculous, since (1) I have never been to Haverhill and (2) the town and the life that Dubus portrays, at great length and with much repetition, are as gritty, as violent, as unappealing as anyplace that one might imagine. This was hell, pure and simple, for a family of four whose father splits to lead an independent life as a writer and bon vivant. And, like hell, it never seemed to end..either for the writer or for the reader. And yet, and yet, after chapter upon chapter of fights, drugs. infertile dreams, neglect, poverty, and drink, it does. Something magical breaks through the bleakness, and the last one hundred pages are simply gorgeous. They shine and glimmer with redemption, love and luminous writing. I almost signed off on this book every night this week. I am terribly glad that I did not. Thank you, Grandma Ida, for setting the example of always finishing a book. You always said, "I owe it to the writer."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Keener

    One of the best memoirs I've read. I loved it for the forgiveness he came to, for the honesty he brought to the issue of fighting and violence and the impulse to fight and the transformation that happened to him as he faced the emptiness of violence and the shame of it. I loved how he addressed violence and really parsed it out for all the things that it signifies for people---the glorification of it, the defense of it, the vulnerability behind it, the mask of it. That's just some of what I love One of the best memoirs I've read. I loved it for the forgiveness he came to, for the honesty he brought to the issue of fighting and violence and the impulse to fight and the transformation that happened to him as he faced the emptiness of violence and the shame of it. I loved how he addressed violence and really parsed it out for all the things that it signifies for people---the glorification of it, the defense of it, the vulnerability behind it, the mask of it. That's just some of what I loved about his story. And, I loved his writing. Many many sentences that resonated for me about writing, about life, family, love, and self.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    I guess I’m just a goddamn meathead. The intensity of the first third of this book is actually inspiring. Young Andre gets knocked again and again yet still manages to make good. His journey is as harrowing as it is powerful. This is the story of never saying die, of fighting until your last breath. The second and third portions of the book focus on an aging Andre’s relationship with his father as well as his own psychological stress that he has developed as a result of spending the entirety of hi I guess I’m just a goddamn meathead. The intensity of the first third of this book is actually inspiring. Young Andre gets knocked again and again yet still manages to make good. His journey is as harrowing as it is powerful. This is the story of never saying die, of fighting until your last breath. The second and third portions of the book focus on an aging Andre’s relationship with his father as well as his own psychological stress that he has developed as a result of spending the entirety of his teens sculpting himself into the ultimate bad ass. Dubus’ writing remains tight throughout, and his ability to find the exact right details to craft a scene borders on the supernatural. Unfortunately the subject matter no longer interested me, and felt predictable, ya know, given that Dubus is a successful author now, and not some thug swinging beer bottles into strangers’ faces. 3.5 rounded up because the first third of this book is special.

  14. 4 out of 5

    piperitapitta

    In mezzo scorre il Merrimack. Il Merrimack separa padre e figlio, Andre Dubus II dalla sua famiglia, nel momento in cui decide di lasciare la moglie per una giovane allieva universitaria e trasferirsi dall'altra parte del fiume. È un docente, uno scrittore di racconti già affermato, ma è anche un uomo che, per quanto sia stato un Marines, non ha la percezione, nemmeno minima, della fatica del vivere quotidiano, dei problemi che l'ex moglie e i quattro figli incontreranno per vivere. Scrive Andre fi In mezzo scorre il Merrimack. Il Merrimack separa padre e figlio, Andre Dubus II dalla sua famiglia, nel momento in cui decide di lasciare la moglie per una giovane allieva universitaria e trasferirsi dall'altra parte del fiume. È un docente, uno scrittore di racconti già affermato, ma è anche un uomo che, per quanto sia stato un Marines, non ha la percezione, nemmeno minima, della fatica del vivere quotidiano, dei problemi che l'ex moglie e i quattro figli incontreranno per vivere. Scrive Andre figlio, accusando e assolvendo allo stesso tempo il padre che adorava, «quando si trattava di problemi, nostro padre, semplicemente, non era l'uomo al quale rivolgersi; i problemi erano semplicemente problemi e poi comunque chi ha questo mondo è mai riuscito a evitarli?», ed è difficile riuscire ad associare l'autore all'uomo, al padre, al marito. Quella in cui piomba la famiglia di Andre è la povertà intermedia di chi non riesce a mettere insieme il pranzo con la cena, ma riesce non senza difficoltà a vivere in una vera casa. Siamo lontani dalle scene viste in molti film di chi vive nelle roulotte o nelle case mobili, ma siamo vicini a una soglia di povertà, tangibile, che noi italiani non riusciamo, forse, nemmeno a immaginare. Forse perché noi italiani, abbienti o non, a una cosa non rinunciamo mai, cioè a mettere insieme un pasto decente, a mangiare, oltre la sopravvivenza, per il gusto di mangiare. Invece i Dubus privi del capofamiglia, la fame la soffrono, difficilmente fanno un pasto che non sia composto da qualche cibo scongelato comprato al volo dalla madre di ritorno dal lavoro in qualche drugstore, da qualche snack dolce o salato, da bevande gassate o birre. È fame vera, quella che scandisce le giornate dell'adolescente Andre e dei suoi fratelli - la maggiore Suzanne, e i minori Jeb e Nicole - ma è anche fame di esperienze, di vita, di rivincita. L'autobiografia che ne scaturisce, nel racconto dell'adolescenza e poi della crescita, trascende il significato e il senso di un'autobiografia convenzionale, per diventare romanzo e offrire uno spaccato impietoso su un'America indigente, su un Massachusetts dove droga, violenza, alcol e risse, accompagnano e scandiscono l'adolescenza di Andre e i suoi fratelli, per descrivere un mondo dove i due Andre, padre e figlio, si contrappongono continuamente per assenza e desiderio di presenza, astrazione e necessità di concretezza, immaterialità e corporeità. È in questo contesto, in questa situazione di abbandono e degrado, di fame e rabbia, che dopo l'abbandono, dopo le violenze subite, dopo l'impotenza e l'incapacità a difendersi, dopo la rabbia che ha iniziato a covare violentissima dentro di lui di fronte a ogni ingiustizia subita, i pugni (reali e non metaforici) diventano per Andre l'unica soluzione possibile, l'unica arma di difesa contro la vita. Sono i pugni che scandiscono la sua crescita, sono i pugni che lo riscattano, sono sempre i pugni che gli consentono di ritagliarsi una figura e un ruolo fra amici e nemici, sono i pugni che gli valgono l'ammirazione del padre, ma sono pugni che, comprensibilmente, non lo aiutano a crescere (se non in massa muscolare), che non gli regalano la quiete e l'appagamento che cerca. È nella scrittura, e nel potere salvifico e terapeutico delle parole, che Andre Dubus III trova (a sorpresa per lui, ma non per il padre che lo comprende e lo incoraggia sin dall'inizio) la cura e la soluzione; e la parte dedicata alla sua crescita interiore e intellettuale, umana e professionale, a partire dalla sua laurea in sociologia in Texas, unita a quella finale in cui narra dell'incidente che costringerà il padre sulla sedia a rotelle dopo aver subito l'amputazione della gamba, sono senz'altro le parti più intense e interessanti del libro, anche perché quelle in cui padre e figlio riescono finalmente a trovare una sintonia, un'onda comune, un canale sul quale comunicare l'uno all'altro i propri sentimenti. Un libro che forse avrebbe necessitato di un po' di alleggerimento (soprattutto nella parte dedicata alle risse e alla boxe), di qualche pagina in meno, che forse, se Dubus padre avesse potuto leggere, avrebbe aiutato il figlio a limare. O forse no, ne sarebbe stato semplicemente orgoglioso, e commosso, e forse avrebbe compreso finalmente tutto quello che, perso nella sua arte* e nel suo vagabondare da un matrimoio all'altro, non era riuscito a comprendere del suo rapporto con il figlio. «Quell'autunno, per qualche settimana, mamma ci servi scodelle fumanti di farina d'avena, oppure farina d'avena con toast alla cannella: pane che imburrava e poi cospargeva di zucchero e cannella e inseriva sotto le fiammelle azzurre della griglia; altre mattine c'erano frittelle di grano saraceno, pancetta calda e succo d'arancia. Una mattina ci svegliamo e trovammo uova alla Benedict con salsa olandese e pesche al forno in una pozza di burro fuso e caramello di zucchero di canna. Ma non durò. Non poteva durare. Il denaro finì e noi eravamo ragazzi che andavano a dormire tardi e non si alzavano al mattino. Prima che mamma avesse dato inizio a queste colazioni, lei era già per strada per recarsi al lavoro quando noi avremmo dovuto uscire di casa per prendere lo scuolabus, più o meno alle sette. Persino con quei meravigliosi profumini che riempivano di nuovo la casa, era raro che ci presentassimo a tavola in tempo e, dal momento che per prepararla nostra madre si privava di un po' più di sonno, vi rinunciò. Sembrava di vivere dentro un grande animale dormiente che si era svegliato solo quel tanto che bastava per battere le palpebre sugli occhi lacrimosi, lanciare un ululato e poi girarsi dall'altra parte e tornare a dormire.» «Guidavo giù dalla collina provando più gioia che tristezza. Non avevo mai fatto crescere nulla, mai piantato un seme e annaffiato finché non sbocciava qualcosa che era sempre stato lì ad aspettare. O, almeno, pensavo di no. E invece lo avevo fatto. Era me stesso che avevo costruito. E immaginavo che aiutare papà a ritrovare la forza desse quel genere di continua soddisfazione creativa che devono provare un giardiniere, un allenatore, oppure un padre.» «Innocenza è chiedere il perché della brutalità. Ma quando l'innocenza è sparita, non chiedi più perché; uno semplicemente se l'aspetta e la combatte oppure la fugge oppure fa qualcosa che sta nel mezzo.» *(a questo proposito, questo brano è splendido!)

  15. 5 out of 5

    Janessa

    I typically review children's picture books and middle grade/young adult fiction on Thursdays, but I have to make an exception today. I recently finished reading TOWNIE, an amazing memoir by the writer Andre Dubus III, and it is one of those rare and precious books that touch the soul and leave a lasting impression. I'm still sorting through my reading experience, but these are the words that come to mind: courageous, honest, transformative, redemptive. In the book Dubus tells of his childhood in I typically review children's picture books and middle grade/young adult fiction on Thursdays, but I have to make an exception today. I recently finished reading TOWNIE, an amazing memoir by the writer Andre Dubus III, and it is one of those rare and precious books that touch the soul and leave a lasting impression. I'm still sorting through my reading experience, but these are the words that come to mind: courageous, honest, transformative, redemptive. In the book Dubus tells of his childhood in the blue-collar mill towns of Massachusetts, growing up in a single-parent home with three siblings. His family barely scraped by on his mom's meager wages as a social worker and the child support they received from his dad, a writer and professor at a nearby college. The neighborhoods they lived in were full of violence - drugs, alcoholism, bullying, theft and abuse. Everyday was dangerous, and Dubus did his best to hide from it until his younger brother was beaten bloody in front of their house and all Dubus could do was stand and watch. Dubus writes of the pivotal moment following this scene, where he faces himself in his bathroom mirror. I stood in front of the sink and the mirror. I was almost suprised to see someone standing there. This kid with a smooth face and not one whisker, this kid with long brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, this kid with narrow shoulders and soft arm and chest muscles and no balls. This kid had no balls. I looked into his eyes: I don't care if you get your face beat in, I don't care if you get kicked in the head or stabbed or even shot, I will never allow you not to fight back ever again. You hear me? From this moment, Dubus molds himself into a fighter. He becomes a vigilante, back to the wall, eyes on the door, always watching, waiting for a chance to beat out his fear into the faces of the bad people - the men who injure and abuse. He starts lifting. He learns boxing. And he sends a lot of people to the hospital, always in the defense of someone who is being victimized. Violence becomes part of his nature - how he views the world and himself in it. It also gets the attention of his disinterested father for the first time in Dubus' life. Now that he's strong, filled-out, disciplined, and scrapping in restaurants and bars, his marine-trained father is impressed and starts spending more time with Dubus. Gradually Dubus begins to realize that he has lost control. He doesn't like the person in the mirror anymore - the person he has willed himself to become. He has to change. But fighting has become a reflex. Violence has become his lens for viewing the world. It isn't until one night, after a hard day of hanging sheetrock, when he finds himself boiling tea and sitting down at his small kitchen table with a notebook and pencil, that he finds the way out. Writing. It comes to him like a gift, and gives him the ability to see the world and himself in a new way. It gives him the power to transform himself. Dubus is committed to honesty in his writing. He learns to see what is false and leaves it behind. The more honest he is with his writing the more honest he can be with himself. And the more empathetic he can be with others. The role of writing in Dubus' life fascinates and inspires me. He creates a new life around his writing, which requires sacrifice and dedication. The motivation for this change seems to come from a desire to see things in the most honest and original way possible, including himself. I loved TOWNIE for this. It creates a forward-moving momentum in Dubus' life, culminating in a scene on a train that I can only describe as holy. Holy is a word that Dubus' father uses in the book. The elder Dubus is a great writer, and he is as dedicated to writing as his son is. He admits to giving the best part of himself to writing, which is the same part of himself that he saves for God and mass. Thus, writing is something of a holy experience for him. It elevates him. It is a daily ritual. But the relationship he has with writing prevents him from being a present part of Dubus' childhood. Dubus struggles to accept this absence, working it out with pencil and paper in his early writing. From there the relationship grows and develops, becoming a major force in TOWNIE and a source of redemption and resolution.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    I grew up in Haverhill, Mass, and lied about being from elsewhere for most of my life. It was a rough town in rough years. Mr. Dubus perfectly evoked the violence and hardscrabble existence of living there. He honored the New England tradition of providing real estate as a character and moreover he did justice to Haverhill by making her as worthy a character as Miss Havisham: formerly beautiful now past her prime, a wreck but one deserving of pity. How interesting that he called himself a "Townie I grew up in Haverhill, Mass, and lied about being from elsewhere for most of my life. It was a rough town in rough years. Mr. Dubus perfectly evoked the violence and hardscrabble existence of living there. He honored the New England tradition of providing real estate as a character and moreover he did justice to Haverhill by making her as worthy a character as Miss Havisham: formerly beautiful now past her prime, a wreck but one deserving of pity. How interesting that he called himself a "Townie". This was a term I never heard used in my 16 years there. Obviously it is a term of exclusion, although what Mr. Dubus was being excluded from seems dubious. Bradford College? A small, nearly useless college of no great academic heft. (Whereas this guy's books have been considered for The National Book Award!) His father's life? A broken down drunk, crappy father, worse husband, a player, a wash-out. Why would he want to be included in that existence? Mr. Dubus did not convince me of his alienation; rather the opposite: he seemed to make himself right at home with the hoods and the Irish gang-bangers on Main Street and Lafayette Square. The boxing, the fight-picking, the cruddiness that stuck to him like gum on a shoe even when he went elsewhere to find himself -- all of that seemed like a rite of passage for the prodigal son. Still despite the creepiness factor, the shivers that even the word "Haverhill" brings upon me, you gotta give this man kudos for making that town sound like a place with a soul, a place worth wanting to be attached to.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Keri

    This was a little difficult reading for me...it hit close to home. Single mother raising 4 kids in a violent neighborhood. Dubus takes us through his upbringing and what has to be done to survive. I did get a little sick of all the violence at one point and wondered when he was going to turn it all around. He gets there, it just takes a while. Amazing characterizations, gritty read. He doesn't pull any punches when remembering all the details of his life. I found myself relating to Dubus in so m This was a little difficult reading for me...it hit close to home. Single mother raising 4 kids in a violent neighborhood. Dubus takes us through his upbringing and what has to be done to survive. I did get a little sick of all the violence at one point and wondered when he was going to turn it all around. He gets there, it just takes a while. Amazing characterizations, gritty read. He doesn't pull any punches when remembering all the details of his life. I found myself relating to Dubus in so many ways...very good book. I liked in particular the way Dubus talks about wanting to confront his dad about his shitty upbringing but also recognizing that his father probably did the best he could under the circumstances. "I could smell his hair, the sweet wafer of the Eucharist on his breath, this thing he believed in so strongly and which got him to say things like he'd just did. It was good he had something like that. Maybe people needed something like that. Men in particular." pg. 250

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ed

    Back in 1984, I reviewed Andre Dubus's fine novella We Don't Live Here Anymore for the Roanoke Times. It was a non-paying gig I did for the sheer joy I took in reading fiction like Mr. Dubus's. Now all these years later, I read the memoir written by his son, Andre Dubus III. Andre is about my age. We grew up with the same music and pop culture. That's one reason why I like his Townie. Rambling, detailed, and gritty, his life story is well worth reading. Andre was a boxer, and he often got into s Back in 1984, I reviewed Andre Dubus's fine novella We Don't Live Here Anymore for the Roanoke Times. It was a non-paying gig I did for the sheer joy I took in reading fiction like Mr. Dubus's. Now all these years later, I read the memoir written by his son, Andre Dubus III. Andre is about my age. We grew up with the same music and pop culture. That's one reason why I like his Townie. Rambling, detailed, and gritty, his life story is well worth reading. Andre was a boxer, and he often got into scrapes, including at bars and with the law. But under the rough exterior, he carried a creative urge to be a fiction author. The sweetest, tenderest part to Townie is the last few chapters where Andre spends more time with his famous writer father. In fact, I was left wanting more writing throughout the book about the father and son. If you haven't read Andre's fiction (like me), finishing his memoir certainly whets your curiosity to do so very soon.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    This book was simply amazing. Maybe I liked it so much because I grew up in the 60's and 70's in Massachusetts near an old mill town similiar to Haverhill. Maybe because I loved The House of Sand and Fog & The Garden of Last Days. Not sure but it was a gripping read. I don't usually read Memoirs with the exception of Life by Keith Richards, but I was hooked from page one in Townie. What a tough life Andre had as a boy growing up. The fact that he became a wonderful author is truly amazing! I This book was simply amazing. Maybe I liked it so much because I grew up in the 60's and 70's in Massachusetts near an old mill town similiar to Haverhill. Maybe because I loved The House of Sand and Fog & The Garden of Last Days. Not sure but it was a gripping read. I don't usually read Memoirs with the exception of Life by Keith Richards, but I was hooked from page one in Townie. What a tough life Andre had as a boy growing up. The fact that he became a wonderful author is truly amazing! I highly recommend this book. As a companion to this read I listened to NPR's Diane Rehm she had Andre on talking about Townie.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Richard Gilbert

    Townie is one of the best memoirs I've read, and I've read a lot of memoirs. It is masterfully written, paced, and structured. I was gripped by the unfolding narrative, really cared and was interested in the guy's plight, and by its themes of neglectful fathers and male violence. So many powerful male issues here, though I don't know if it's a book of primary appeal to guys, because women are sure affected by their fathers, brothers, sons, and lovers. Andre Dubus III has earned my complete respec Townie is one of the best memoirs I've read, and I've read a lot of memoirs. It is masterfully written, paced, and structured. I was gripped by the unfolding narrative, really cared and was interested in the guy's plight, and by its themes of neglectful fathers and male violence. So many powerful male issues here, though I don't know if it's a book of primary appeal to guys, because women are sure affected by their fathers, brothers, sons, and lovers. Andre Dubus III has earned my complete respect and admiration for his candor and ability. I am going to reread this memoir to learn more how he did it. Townie is long but I inhaled it in two days and never lost interest.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mary Rowen

    The memoir Townie by Andre Dubus III is a striking and worthwhile read for so many reasons. It’s always interesting to learn how a bestselling author got his start, but I’d always assumed that Dubus—best known for his dark and gripping novel House of Sand and Fog—had it a bit easier than most. After all, he’s the son of one of America’s greatest short story writers (the late Andre Dubus II). But Townie makes it clear that this wasn’t the case for the younger Dubus. It turns out that he grew up in The memoir Townie by Andre Dubus III is a striking and worthwhile read for so many reasons. It’s always interesting to learn how a bestselling author got his start, but I’d always assumed that Dubus—best known for his dark and gripping novel House of Sand and Fog—had it a bit easier than most. After all, he’s the son of one of America’s greatest short story writers (the late Andre Dubus II). But Townie makes it clear that this wasn’t the case for the younger Dubus. It turns out that he grew up in extreme poverty during the 1970s, moving around from one bad neighborhood to another with his mother and three siblings. At first, it seems as though his father abandoned his wife and kids, but as the story progresses, we come to realize it was much more complicated than that. The elder Dubus was actually a sweet and loving man, but his shyness and need to write often made it impossible for him to be there for his children during their youth. What we see, then, for the majority of the book, is the younger Dubus doing all he can to survive, primarily through violence. Alcohol, drugs, and the victims of substance abuse rage all around him, and it appears as though Dubus III might succumb as well. In high school, he and his brother steal, skip school, drink, and get high on a daily basis. His sister sells drugs and often uses the money she earns to put food on the table. Later, she is brutally raped. Fighting seems to be the only way to remain afloat. So Dubus fights. And fights. Sometimes he wins; sometimes he loses; always he feels confused and distraught afterwards. Plenty of stories about male violence have been written, but I’ve never read one that explores its emotional effects as profoundly—or as personally—as Townie. Of course, we know Dubus will escape this cycle, as he is now one of America’s most influential writers. But the tension in Townie remains high, as we watch him take his first tentative steps into the world of writing. We feel his frustration as he sends his first short story out to ten magazines and gets rejected by the first nine, and his joy when he eventually gets published (with no apparent assistance from his father). Even better is getting to witness Dubus III and his famous dad become true friends, especially after the senior Dubus is critically injured in a car accident. I felt a personal connection with this book as well, as I grew up in the Merrimack Valley, just a few miles from Dubus’ Haverhill neighborhood. There’s nothing quite like reading a true story that takes place so close in time and proximity to your childhood home; it makes the streets you once traveled, the places you visited, the restaurants you frequented larger than life. It was also chilling to discover that the Capt’n Chris restaurant in Haverhill—a favorite of my younger brother—employed not only Dubus III, but also Charles E. Pierce, who would eventually confess to being a serial child killer. The scene in which Pierce threatens to take Dubus’ life is one I won’t soon forget. If you’re a fan of either Dubus, Townie is a must-read. Ditto if you’re interested in gaining a better understanding of the compulsion certain men feel to fight repeatedly. But Townie is more than just an interesting memoir or a book about male violence. It’s a work of non-fiction that reads like a novel; a straightforward story about good people doing their best in a world where things are often much harder than they appear. After reading Townie, it’s much easier for me to understand where Dubus got his ideas for House of Sand and Fog. His compassion for the human race—particularly people who struggle with things beyond their control—is found on every page, so that even though there’s much sadness to be found here, we’re left with a strong sense of hope.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Seeley

    I'm not the world's biggest fan of Andre Dubus III. I struggled with The House of Sand and Fog (although it was made into a fantastic movie, one of the few instances when I've preferred the movie to the book - The Kite Runner was the other one). And I have no memory whatsoever of The Garden of Last Days, although I remember liking it better than Sand and Fog. Initially I found this memoir of Dubus' childhood and youth a bit of a struggle. But I persevered, and I'm very glad I did. I wouldn't agre I'm not the world's biggest fan of Andre Dubus III. I struggled with The House of Sand and Fog (although it was made into a fantastic movie, one of the few instances when I've preferred the movie to the book - The Kite Runner was the other one). And I have no memory whatsoever of The Garden of Last Days, although I remember liking it better than Sand and Fog. Initially I found this memoir of Dubus' childhood and youth a bit of a struggle. But I persevered, and I'm very glad I did. I wouldn't agree with the blurb that this is a meditation on violence. It is, rather, a meditation on love, acceptance, and appreciation of the fact that we are all inherently flawed. Somehow Dubus manages to deliver a very real portrait of both his parents: a largely absent father who's astonished to discover his son knows nothing about baseball but doesn't quite manage to put the pieces together, i.e. doesn't realize that his near-total absence from his childrens' lives means no one's ever taught them to throw a ball or take them to a baseball game; and a mother who's largely absent because she's struggling to support four children while working full-time and commuting well over two hours a day. Somehow he manages to love and to forgive both his parents for their neglect, and to appreciate the struggles and sacrifices they've made, which is what makes this such a remarkable book. Good to read in the context of Martin Amis' memoir of his father, Kingsley Amis (Experience).

  23. 4 out of 5

    Merilee

    First book on my new Kindle. I finished it this morning, and much as I liked his House of Sand and Fog, I would not recommend this memoir. It's endlessly repetitive about his getting into fights as a young teen and even a young man, trying to prove that he's not a wimp. He lifts weights and then he beats up some more people who he thinks are either after him or trying to take advantage of some woman. The bits about his father were somewhat interesting, but I found that mainly this book was much a First book on my new Kindle. I finished it this morning, and much as I liked his House of Sand and Fog, I would not recommend this memoir. It's endlessly repetitive about his getting into fights as a young teen and even a young man, trying to prove that he's not a wimp. He lifts weights and then he beats up some more people who he thinks are either after him or trying to take advantage of some woman. The bits about his father were somewhat interesting, but I found that mainly this book was much about very little.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Myfanwy

    After she finished reading Andre Dubus III's new memoir Townie one of my friends called me and asked, "Is this book as good as I think it is or is it just that I grew up around all of these places he writes about?" I told her that while place is certainly important in the book, the book is exactly as good as she thinks it is. And it is. And so what of this place where my friend, and Dubus, and I now live? This place is the north shore of Massachusetts, once known for its down-in-the-mouth mill an After she finished reading Andre Dubus III's new memoir Townie one of my friends called me and asked, "Is this book as good as I think it is or is it just that I grew up around all of these places he writes about?" I told her that while place is certainly important in the book, the book is exactly as good as she thinks it is. And it is. And so what of this place where my friend, and Dubus, and I now live? This place is the north shore of Massachusetts, once known for its down-in-the-mouth mill and fishing towns bordering the Merrimack river but which is now gentrified and not only a commuter location for those working Boston but also its own happening place to live and work. Not so in the days when Dubus and my friend were coming up. Son of a hard-living writer and a hard-working mother, Dubus suffered the same fate of many of us living our childhood in the 60s and 70s when helicopter parents did not exist, that of benign neglect. Our parents meant us no harm; they had grown up in difficult times themselves--many born into the Great Depression or into war. They learned how to survive and that's what they taught us, mostly by leaving us alone. And that was really okay, actually. Like Dubus, we either learned how to survive and thrive or we didn't. You might assume that this book is going to be about what it's like to be the child of one of the 20th century's best writers, but in actuality that Dubus's father was a writer is only a fraction of the tale. At its core this is a story of this son's redemption and, ultimately, of his awakening. Indeed, some of the most poignant moments within this narrative are when Dubus realizes what he has become (a brute) and what he might become (a murderer) and then, most importantly, what he wants to be and will choose to be (a creator/a husband/a father). The pivotal scene occurs when instead of heading out to the gym as he would normally do after a day's hard labor, Dubus makes him self a cup of tea and sits down at his table and writes. In this moment and in this act, he (perhaps unconsciously) saves himself: "I blinked and looked around my tiny rented kitchen, saw things I'd never seen before: the stove leaning to the left, the handle of the fridge covered with dirty masking tape, the chipped paint of the window casing, a missing square of linoleum on the floor under the radiator. I stood and closed the notebook. I picked up the pencil and set it on top like some kind of marker, a reminder to me of something important I shouldn't lose." He does not use writing as therapy, rather he uses it as an act of survival. Of turning the eye outward, so that vision might reflect back inward. For me, this scene was keenly familiar to my own experience in which I, too, picked up the pen as a means of saving myself, of pushing myself away from darkness into the bright glare of awareness. In fact, so much of the book feels familiar, not because of how I lived and live now but because what Dubus taps into is something common to the human experience: the choices we make that allow us to survive. The choices we make that bring us one more rung up the ladder from merely surviving up to thriving. As such, this book is not about blame or self-pity; it's about examining the darkness within you so that you might share your own light. Read it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    Remember the TV show, BATMAN? All the fistfights? How your screen blossomed with words like BIFF! POW! CRA-A-ACK! SPLAT! and so forth? Well roll out the soundtrack and play it as you read Andre Dubus III's TOWNIE. It's one street fight after another (peppered with a few boxing matches for variety, I suppose). Call me a Pip, but I had Great Expectations for this book. I expected a literary memoir of a kid who cut his teeth on the art of writing with a well-known, published dad. I expected allusio Remember the TV show, BATMAN? All the fistfights? How your screen blossomed with words like BIFF! POW! CRA-A-ACK! SPLAT! and so forth? Well roll out the soundtrack and play it as you read Andre Dubus III's TOWNIE. It's one street fight after another (peppered with a few boxing matches for variety, I suppose). Call me a Pip, but I had Great Expectations for this book. I expected a literary memoir of a kid who cut his teeth on the art of writing with a well-known, published dad. I expected allusions to this book and that; that writer and this; language figurative, literal, and artful all the way home. Uh, no. Try FIGHT CLUB REDUX and you'd be closer to the truth. And if you've been around Boston long enough, you know just the type of drunken white trash young Andre spends many a day beating the crap out of. But first he needs to channel Charles Atlas and bulk up. Lots of bench presses and dumbbell-to-manage-ignorant dumbbells workouts. Then, once our lad becomes strapping, he takes to the streets of the surrounding mill towns and discovers the animal within. That's it. The Story of the Animal Within. I'm a bit taken aback by blurbs on the back from the likes of Richard Russo, Anita Shreve, and Wally Lamb. Are these accolades all in the publishing family, maybe? How could they miss the redundancy in all of this? Adding insult to injury, Andre's writing background gets short shrift. Unrealistically, like a shot out of the blue, he skips boxing practice one night, brews a tea, and writes a story so he can be like the dad that left him (but he still loves). Then, incredibly (to those who know how writing works), his sophomore effort gets accepted by one of the toughest and most high paying markets of all, PLAYBOY. Did he leave out the III when he signed it "Andre Dubus," one wonders? More likely, a lot of background is simply left out by this memoirist. He constantly mentions his mix of embarrassment and pride about his avenger role in all of these fistfights, however, and it seems those feelings remained the operative as he sat down to write this book. It's too bad, too, because the last hundred pages which focused much more on his dad spoke to what this book could have been. In the stretch drive, the book truly was beginning to redeem itself. Unsolicited and much too late advice? Cut the first 300 pages to about 100, then go the remaining 300 on dad and the writing world as he (and soon enough you) knew it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Judith

    I have enjoyed the short stories of Andre Dubus (the father), so when I learned that his son had written a memoir, I was interested in checking it out. The NYT gave it a favorable review, and somewhere along the line I remembered that he was also the author of "House of Sand and Fog", which I also liked very much. So I was surprised and disappointed when halfway through the book, I completely lost interest in it and couldn't read another page. He relates his family's story: his parents were very I have enjoyed the short stories of Andre Dubus (the father), so when I learned that his son had written a memoir, I was interested in checking it out. The NYT gave it a favorable review, and somewhere along the line I remembered that he was also the author of "House of Sand and Fog", which I also liked very much. So I was surprised and disappointed when halfway through the book, I completely lost interest in it and couldn't read another page. He relates his family's story: his parents were very attractive interesting people and they had four kids, then got divorced. His father wrote books and taught at a local college. His mother was a social worker. For some reason they chose to live in the worst, roughest part of New Jersey where they suffered from inner city crime, violence and frequent beatings administered by bullies and tough guys. They had so little money that they often went hungry, with no dinner; he once wore his sister's small tennis shoes to go jogging with his father because he couldn't afford his own. As described by the author, his parents did their best but were largely unaware or helpless to remedy the situation. Neither had the time, the money, or apparently the interest to parent. Eventually after countless beatings and humiliations, Andre decides to toughen up, so he takes up weight-lifting, running, and boxing. When he develops his body and his fighting skills, he runs around looking for fights to redeem himself by proving his courage. The fights seem anti-climactic. For example: he and his father are sitting in a restaurant and overhear a conversation at the next table consisting of the gentleman disparaging the lady. Andre's father picks a fight with the guy and Andre backs him up. They are both very proud of themselves. So this pattern repeats itself: Andre gets into fights; his dad gets married a couple more times; his siblings grow up, and it felt like I was on a treadmill. I really liked the dedication Andre devoted to building up his body. That part of the story was inspirational.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    Dubus, Andre, III. TOWNIE. (2011). ***. The author is the son of Andre Dubus II – as you might have guessed – one of the finest writers we have seen, though never very popular among the average reader. Dubus II got a divorce from his first wife and left her with the four children, III being eleven or twelve at this time. II was a professor at a small college in Massachussetts. He did his best to support his ex and the kids, but they were still forced to live in some small rental homes on the wro Dubus, Andre, III. TOWNIE. (2011). ***. The author is the son of Andre Dubus II – as you might have guessed – one of the finest writers we have seen, though never very popular among the average reader. Dubus II got a divorce from his first wife and left her with the four children, III being eleven or twelve at this time. II was a professor at a small college in Massachussetts. He did his best to support his ex and the kids, but they were still forced to live in some small rental homes on the wrong side of one or another forsaken Mass. mill town. The kids grew up rough. There were constant fights, drugs and booze. III grew up in fear of being severely beaten by the other kids. His epiphany came when he bought a muscle magazine and joined a local muscle club. His heroes were clint Eastwood, whooever played in “Walking Tall,” and Charles Bronson. Kind of reminds you of the old Charles Atlas ads in the old magazines. III seems to remember every fight he ever had as a kid. That’s what the book is about. II was a womanizer and not much of a father. There is some understanding that develops between them later on, but not much. III finds his niche as a writer and gets out of the fight zones, but we have to put up with all his fights – both wins and losses – along the way. Very boring in spots. There’s a glowing blurb on the back from James Lee Burke. You have to realize that Burke and II were the best of friends while II was alive. It seems we have to wait for the next "House of Sand and Fog."

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Such an excellent memoir! I love books that transport you somewhere else, but Dubus' work holds you tightly to the earth and helps remind you that kindness can spring from cruelty. The relationship he forged with his father is touching. He recounts an upbringing far from ideal with the street toughness that helped him survive and let's you know: he doesn't want your pity, or your empathy either. From watching Batman with Kurt Vonnegut when he was a kid to saving himself through boxing to his Cat Such an excellent memoir! I love books that transport you somewhere else, but Dubus' work holds you tightly to the earth and helps remind you that kindness can spring from cruelty. The relationship he forged with his father is touching. He recounts an upbringing far from ideal with the street toughness that helped him survive and let's you know: he doesn't want your pity, or your empathy either. From watching Batman with Kurt Vonnegut when he was a kid to saving himself through boxing to his Catcher in the Rye moment on a train in England to becoming a writer despite being in his father's shadow, Dubus' story is unlike any I've ever read and I am in awe of the breadth of character and talent he possesses. The last chapter of the book is perfection. After spending his life letting his sadness and anger drive him from one dangerous situation to the next, he allows the reader to stand beside him for a moment when he allows the sadness and stillness to settle on him and move through him. It's beautiful. The audio book is read by the author; I highly recommend it.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    I appreciated the honesty of this memoir, but I think the memories of fighting could have been condensed some. Dubus did, however, write candidly about his family, making it worth reading. It's also a story of personal growth, which I like.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    This book was 187 pages too long. A tormented tale of Dubus' childhood leading to reconciliation with his father, Dubus seems almost hyper in his recounting of the anger he felt as an abandoned (par pere) child in Haverhill. The memoir is filled with fights, vengeance, drugs, booze, and unhappiness. The reader begs for the redemption moments in which the author comes to terms with his manhood and accepts his talent as a writer. Sadly, the redemption is too little, too late. As much as I admired This book was 187 pages too long. A tormented tale of Dubus' childhood leading to reconciliation with his father, Dubus seems almost hyper in his recounting of the anger he felt as an abandoned (par pere) child in Haverhill. The memoir is filled with fights, vengeance, drugs, booze, and unhappiness. The reader begs for the redemption moments in which the author comes to terms with his manhood and accepts his talent as a writer. Sadly, the redemption is too little, too late. As much as I admired THE HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG and as much as I adore Andre as a person, teacher, and writer, I feel that his editors let him down with this piece. Nevertheless, I cannot wait to attend his reading at Salem State University on September 29 to hear his account of the writing of this piece. The memoir reminded me of therapy. Andre was on the couch, recounting the same story again and again. There were bursts of hope, as when he joined the cross-country team in high school (p 83) and developed new habits, friends, and self-respect. Yet, at the same time, his physical prowess became a means to get revenge on those who had taunted him and his friends as he grew up. He became a respectable boxer, but too often his fists played Russian roulette with his future as he took on people in situations that were far too challenging for his ability. For the next 200 pages, we alternate from hope to despair, from anger to understanding. As the memoir chugs to its conclusion, Dubus writes about the novel he was writing at the time... "I was too emotionally close to to this story to write honestly about it" (319). He adds, "I'd been talking and talking but not listening. The result were scenes that did not ring true, characters who felt more like marionettes than people, a story whose rising arc felt contrived and predictable and false." And my feeling in reading this memoir was that Dubus may still be too close to the details of his own life, and still too unresolved, to write a more conclusive piece. I felt a bit shorted in the final parts of the memoir because Dubus has become a husband and father and yet he did not really explain how the angry young townie was transformed by the love of Fontaine. The final scenes of the memoir focus on the death of his father, Andre Dubus. In many ways, the memoir is an attempt to come to grips with the impact of his father's leaving the family (wife and 4 children) and his father's general emotional absence. And although there is reconciliation, there are some things, as my friend Jay Woodruff says, "you don't get over as much as get around." The scenes of building his father's coffin with his brother and of digging the grave in Haverhill are powerful and convincing to this former gravedigger. So the memoir was touching, but I am left with a sadness about the residual pain and anger that I still see in the author.

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