Norton, £16.99 Order for £15.29 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Townie: a Memoir, By Andre Dubus III
Tuesday 08 November 2011
For its author's sake, it would be comforting to think that Townie is one of those memoirs which have been so heavily tweaked as to bear no relation to the writer's actual life. Unfortunately for the memoirist, we know enough about Andre Dubois II, his father, to confirm crucial elements in the book. Dubois senior was an American short-story writer and professor so poor that at one point he sold his blood on a monthly basis. Yet the first 10 years were good for Andre junior. The boy learned to shoot. His parents had loud parties. At one point Kurt Vonnegut lived next door and used to come in to watch Batman.
Unfortunately, the father's lasting love and concern for his wife and children did not prevent him from leaving them to acquire more wives and children. And girlfriends. For three months a year he wrote in the mornings and lay on the beach in the afternoons. For the rest, everything, including the kids, went to the bad.
Despite the disasters, Townie is no misery memoir. In this vibrantly written book, several passages stand out. When a bully beats up his younger brother and calls his mother a whore, Andre declares to himself, "I will never allow you not to fight back again." He starts an obsessive fitness regime, and prowls around like the Caped Crusader, looking for baddies in bars. He beats the living daylights out of men abusing their girlfriends but has a sneaking suspicion that he is really doing it for his own satisfaction, to revenge himself on the bigger kids who walloped him.
Then comes the event that turns Andre into a writer. He is going out to the gym when he suddenly finds himself picking up a pencil and notebook. Into his mind comes the image of a wood in which a girl is losing her virginity. The next thing he is aware of is the words of this story, including his crossings-out, are down on the blue lines in the notebook. Playboy buys his next story for $2,000 which, 30 years ago, was a lot of cash for an unknown writer.
Andre Dubus III is now a known writer. House of Sand and Fog became a bestseller and film. He became close to Andre Dubus II. He never spelt out how paternal irresponsibility had affected the children. Writing with affection after his father's death, the son can now do that.
There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turningTV
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 All Blacks Aaron Cruden misses New Zealand flight after drinking session, has brilliant excuse
- 2 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': TV reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 Alicia Keys leaks nude photo 'to create a kinder and more peaceful world'
- 5 Clothes store Joy angers mental health campaigners with Twitter exchange on bipolar disorders
Downton Abbey fans outraged at Kindle sponsorship adverts
Downton Abbey series 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Friends 20th anniversary: The highs and lows of the cast's careers since TV series ended in 2004
Downton Abbey series 5, episode 1, ITV, review: There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning
New Tricks: Dennis Waterman to leave drama after a decade of crime-solving
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'