Townie: A Memoir Audio Cassette – Audiobook, 28 Feb 2011
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Amazon.com 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, Amazon.com
[ ... ] 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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
In order to obtain some recognition and respect in his community the young Andre embarks on a fanatical weight training programme and by so doing uses his new enhanced and almost psychotic strength to bully intimidate and violently attack those who might do him wrong. This forms the central point of this story and yet there comes a time when the fighting must stop and Andre must question the truth of the path he has chosen for to do otherwise would surely result in his violent demise. The answer and his salvation some in the form of discovering his gift as a writer and author.
This is a story about hope, love, and the strength and support of family. In that respect it is a good and exciting read, but I became somewhat disillusioned with the endless fighting fuelled with copious amounts of alcohol and drugs resulting in me becoming somewhat distracted and glad when I finally concluded.
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.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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!