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Townie: A Memoir Audio CD – Audiobook, 28 Feb 2011

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Audio CD, Audiobook, 28 Feb 2011
£79.30 £21.56
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product details

  • Audio CD: 12 pages
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks; Unabridged edition (28 Feb. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1441781560
  • ISBN-13: 978-1441781567
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 16.5 x 15.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Review Best Books of the Month, February 2011: Rarely has the process of becoming a writer seemed as organic and--dare I say it--moral as it does in Andre Dubus III's clear-eyed and compassionate memoir, Townie. You might think that following his father's trade would have been natural and even obvious for the son and namesake of Andre Dubus, one of the most admired short story writers of his time, but it was anything but. His father left when he was 10, and as his mother worked long hours to keep them fed, her four children mostly raised themselves, stumbling through house parties and street fights in their Massachusetts mill town, so cut off from the larger world that when someone mentioned "Manhattan" when Andre was in college he didn't know what they were talking about. What he did know, and what he recalls with detailed intensity, were the battles in bars and front yards, brutal to men and women alike, that first gave him discipline, as he built himself from a fearful kid into a first-punch, hair-trigger bruiser, and then empathy, as, miraculously, he pulled himself back from the violence that threatened to define him. And it was out of that empathy that, wanting to understand the stories of the victims of brutality as well as those whose pain drove them to dish it out, he began to write, reconciling with his father and eventually giving us novels like House of Sand and Fog and now this powerful and big-hearted memoir. --Tom Nissley,

[ ... ] Townie is a mesmerising work, one of the best accounts I've encountered of violence and its causes. It is worth reading just for Dubus's lengthy descriptions of fighting passages that exhilarate even as they sicken. --William Skidelsky, Observer

Townie is riveting and poignant. The writing is crisp and lively Dubus seems fixated with the smell of the air --Ángel Gurría-Quintana, FT --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

National Book Award finalist Andre Dubus III is the author of The Garden of Last Days and House of Sand and Fog. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 22 Aug. 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read Andre Dubus' novel 'House of Sand and Fog' many years ago with pleasure and admiration over his unusual and original storyline. I heard the author talking about this book on Radio 4, and wanted to read the book even before I realised who the author was. This book which details his upbringing, and that of his siblings, is a study in nature vs nurture. Imagine the dichotomy of growing up with two educated, erudite, loving divorced parents, who despite their long hours of hard work (which effectively prevented them from being able to parent properly) were unable to provide even the basics of three meals a day for their children. Their absence from their children's lives meant that they all brought themselves up, terribly imperfectly, and the collateral of this neglect reverberated down the years through the choices and relationships they made as adults. Written with vulnerability, love, affection, forgiveness, gentleness, compassion and humour, this erudite novel forms the well from which Andre Dubus is able to draw his inspiration.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. A. J. Smith on 24 Oct. 2011
Format: Hardcover
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 becoming a writer is documented with ruthless and uncompromising honesty. In all it's an inspiring and uplifting tale - I loved it.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I enjoyed it and can overlook some issues, but many readers won't. There are several intriguing psychologies with characters battling through flaws that are expressed simply with elegance. These are within the author himself, his relationships with parents, siblings, friends and the world in general that are the heart of this story and make it a page-turner. I enjoyed the candor and humor of his memories, the reminders of the influence of screen-heroes like "Billy-Jack" to an impressionable boy. The book reads as if listening to an interesting person at the bar, pleasant conversation on emerging out of cowardice and shame into growth and unbridled power and eventual vulnerability and change. Finding yourself, who you are and what you believe in is deep stuff, presented well here. It's funny, sad, interesting, memorable. The book is great with all of that.
Then there are parts I have issues with, and it starts with credibility. Hard to believe a story that begins with a kid (15?) going for an 11-mile run with his dad, when the kid doesn't jog normally, has no shoes except for his sister's which are 2 sizes too small and already causing him incredible pain before the run even begins and distressing him constantly while running. It's possible, yes, but seriously doubtful to begin a book.
I'm estimating there are between 500 to 600 named characters, first and last names. It seems like every other page has a scene with 4 new characters introduced, most of them only existing briefly for a paragraph or a few pages to touch on a quick snippet. My brain starts waving flags and asking how many of them move the story further.
And then of course there are the Red Sox and Fenway Park, two things the author basically says he had never heard of while growing up for years in Massachusetts.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 166 reviews
70 of 81 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant 21 Feb. 2011
By Joe Trojnor-Barron - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Since receiving my pre-order in the mail weeks before the publishing date, I could not put this book down. I have been a huge Dubus fan since a high school English teacher gave me a copy of the House of Sand and Fog. What makes Dubus such a fascinating writer is his ability to capture the very essence of humanity, be it good or bad. This brilliantly written memoir offers insight into the life of the man behind some masterfully written works of fiction. I am incredibly appreciative of his honesty as a writer and sharing such a personal part of his life. The relationship with his father and the role it played on his life certainly rang true for me, as I could often relate to such similar feelings. The thoughts, ideas, and feelings I experienced while reading this book will certainly resonate for a long time to come. I highly recommend reading this work.
52 of 60 people found the following review helpful
Cover-to-Cover Fisticuffs 23 April 2011
By Ken C. - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Along about p. 100 I had to check the cover of TOWNIE to make sure I wasn't rereading Chuck Palahniuk's THE FIGHT CLUB by mistake. And it didn't much let up until the last hundred pages (and even that stretch was seasoned with fists, fury, and f-bombs galore). Dubus III chooses to focus on his coming-of-age days, specifically how he learned to build muscle and engage with all manner of white trash in the mill towns north, northwest of Boston. It isn't pretty, and it does grow redundant.

Perhaps it's a case of disappointed expectations. I anticipated more of a literary memoir -- one that focused on Andre's writing apprenticeship and the influence of his dad, the celebrated short story writer. In fairness, it is the father-son angle that is this book's strength. Like many writing fathers, Andre Dubus, Jr., let his kids down as he went through young wife after young wife, devoting mornings to his writing and leaving his first wife (Andre's mom) to fend for the four fledglings. Young Andre III, like some classic 90-pound-weakling in a comic-book Charles Atlas ad, vows to build muscles with relentless work outs so that he can defend himself and others in the hardscrabble, blue collar environs of his hometown. Trouble is, he is to his family and friends what the United States is to planet Earth -- the world's policeman. He sticks his nose in every possible wrongdoing he can, sometimes to his own detriment and often to others'. After a while it's not only his victims yelling, "Uncle!", it's his readers.

Another oddity in the book is the way he relates his initiation into writing. It's as if a light switch is thrown and... voila... he stays home from boxing one night to brew tea and write short stories. There is little mention of book reading or author emulating (what you'd expect of any writer-in-the-making) in the years leading up to this and continued ado about punching, killing, and maiming Boston's trash out in the cruel, cruel world. Then, in what appears to be his second story ever, an acceptance slip comes from PLAYBOY magazine, of all markets, one of the best-paying, most-impossible-to-breach markets. Whoa. The way it's approached in this book, it seems... out of the blue. Who, other than his dad and Breece DJ Pancake (one of the very few mentioned contemporaries) were his role models? Why do we hear about boxing coaches but never writing mentors?

It was a grind, but I hung in there for the 15th round. I was rewarded with some touching moments at the end between father and son. For me, the ending spoke of the promise that this book brings and earned it a third star. As a memoir, however, it is disappointingly limited in scope and redundant in execution. For fans of literary non-fiction, this is a letdown. For fans of Friday night boxing, a sweet reward.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Not the Haverhill I know 10 Aug. 2011
By Donna A - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the main reasons I decided to read this book was because Andre Dubus grew up in my home town not far from where I live, in a Haverhill I did not recognize but then I am 7 years older than him and did not hang around the Avenues. His story focuses on his life after his parents' divorce, of his street fighting and boxing, of a very angry young man. In hearing his story I am truly amazed how he and his siblings survived and actually turned out to have a respectable life. Recently Chronicle (Boston TV Show) dedicated an entire show to Dubus, this book and Haverhill now. In listening to Dubus he talks about his mother and how she was a strong influence in his life. I found the book dealt very little with his mother other than she was manly absent in order to support the family and more extensively with his relationship with his father. I did find his book somewhat repetitive and at times seemed to rambling on.

Would I read the book if it were not about someone's life from Haverhill? No
39 of 47 people found the following review helpful
An excellent memoir to add to other works by this author 26 Feb. 2011
By Kcorn - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a fan of this author but wondered how he'd write this very personal memoir. Instead of glossing over details (as so many memoirs do, leaving out negative experiences), Dubus has written a gritty book about his often violent life. In fact, I found myself surprised that he even became a writer after learning of his varied hardships.

I'm reluctant to put in spoilers here but will add that his parents' divorce was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to his life. This isn't to understate the effect of the divorce. Tight finances turned to what I'd term "desperate" and canned cheap food (Spaghettios, etc) became par for the course. Moving from one neighborhood to another, Dubus was often the target of bullies. He saw his father far less often and his father actually commented that "he felt like he was dating his children" because of regular weekly visits instead of seeing them daily.

Anger and fights became the norm for Dubus after he starting working out and training at boxing clubs. He learned how to fight but channeling his anger was far more difficult. Sometimes he'd go after a guy for a fairly minor transgression and then feel inklings of guilt afterwards.

You'll need to stick with the details of the author's early life to find out how he evolves. I winced when I read about how he went on a long run (over 8 miles) with his father while wearing ill-fitting shoes. I could practically feel every painful minute.

At an age (his 20s) when many writers already forge and hone their writing skills, Dubus was caught up in often violent activities before turning to writing in any serious way. His relationship with his father also changes, particularly after his father learns that his son can fight - something that the father never mastered. He starts to respect his son, helping to bridge a chasm between the two.

Even though his life was often rough, I was struck by the fact that books, often classics, filled the bookcases of the Dubus household. So Dubus grew up surrounded by them - unlike many of his peers.

This work adds so much perspective and insight on the writer's life. You're likely to see his work through new eyes after experiencing this memoir. Highly recommended!
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Andre's Ashes 13 Dec. 2011
By Keith A. Comess - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
T.S. Eliot once wrote, "All cases are unique and very similar to each other" and, to some extent, that seems to be a characteristic of many writer's memoirs, at least those that grew up in tough and unpromising circumstances but later, Horatio Alger-like, that is through "luck and pluck" became successful. Several examples immediately come to mind: "This Boy's Life" (Tobias Wolff), "Call it Sleep" (Henry Roth), "Education of a Felon" (and a few more by Edward Bunker), "My Childhood" (Maxim Gorky), "Angela's Ashes" (Frank McCourt), "My Dark Places" (James Elroy) and this book. Each of the examples are unique and excellent; all are similar (almost by definition) and all are well worth reading except perhaps for this one,"Townie" which eventually collapses in a solipsistic heap I'll call, "Andre's Ashes".

Andre Dubus III has written excellent fiction. To my knowledge, this is his first non-fiction book. Andre's father (Andre II, "The Giant") was a well-known short story writer. He was a bit of a narcissist and quite a bit of a cad, too. After setting up shop at a small college and beginning a self-indulgent life of running, writing, teaching and philandering, he jettisons wife and family. Because Andre II was generally too self-enamored to notice his family, domestic chores were left to his hard-working wife, who raised Andre III and siblings essentially unaided. They lived in various places in hard-scrabble, rust-belt mill towns in MA. Along the way, Andre III underwent the Charles Atlas transformation (sand kicked in face, intensive muscle building, no longer 96 pound weakling, now ready to demolish any offenders). Much of the book relates Andre's transformation, along with a near "how to" on body building. Andre III pummels, kicks, punches and levels many nasty and brutish types, all with a sort of unintentional and cartoon-like recitation of injuries caused and sustained, none of which (despite bashed heads on concrete, asphalt, bar furniture, etc), kicks with steel-toed boots and broken glassware in faces seems to land anyone in the Rehabilitation Medicine ward as would be expected with injuries of this nature.

Andre III's siblings are raped (older sister), beaten (younger brother), afflicted with congenital defects (another sister) but, in common with Andre III, make successes of themselves. Exactly how this was accomplished was never thoroughly elucidated, even in the case of Andre III: one day he is a down-and-out barroom brawler, amateur pugalist and blue-collar worker; the next, he's a major writer. The juxtaposition of recurrent and banal observations (The world is a bad place? People are individuals, not class-warfare stereotypes? What is my role in the world and how will writing make a difference?) seem disingenuous, as does his avowal that he had "never heard of" the Red Sox (despite living near Boston) nor of Harvard nor, for that matter, of Manhatten. His recurring and overused method of describing background rock music ("Rod was singing about Maggie kicking him out", Grand Funk was complaining about "American women") becomes tiresomely repetitious as does the disproportionate emphasis on bodybuilding and fighting. None of the ethnic tapestry (at least he avoids tropes like this one!) of the community Andre III inhabits is sympathetically portrayed (see, for example, Roth's and McCourt's books for contrast), characters walk on and off stage without development of explanation (see TV's "Mad Men"), attempts at genuine understanding of personalities and motives are absent (see Wolff) and even the tough street education falls far short (see Bunker).

So, in summary, "Townie" is perplexing. It seems anachronistic, in that Andre III is a highly accomplished and supremely gifted writer (see "House of Sand and Fog") who certainly has the experience and capabilities required to turn out a first-rank memoir. Instead, this seems more along the lines of a first effort performed for a writer's school class assignment, alternately insightful, self-indulgent, occasionally moving but more often seeming contrived, maudlin and heavy-handed. Stated otherwise, its a good book for Andre III fans who really want to know everything about their favorite author.

I'll let Andre III himself write the book's epitaph. In fact, he does so on page 338 of "Townie": "What I did know is that this novel was dead and I had killed it. I'd been trying too hard to say something-about poverty, about overwhelmed single mothers, about absent fathers and tough neighborhoods and all the trouble that could be found there, but most of all I'd been trying to make the reader feel sorry for the children, especially the teenage boy I'd based solely on me. 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"...exactly, but why didn't he realize this before publication and why didn't the editor at W.W.Norton and company point it out?
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