Townie—A Memoir

Andre Dubus

I was an enthusiastic early fan of Andre Dubus III’s dad. Andre Dubus II was one of the best short-story writers America produced in the late 20th century. He was also, I’d been told, something of an asshole, and it’s possible to see that part of him in his son’s memoir, even though the book is alive with the son’s complicated love for his father. Dubus III is no slouch as a writer himself. He has already surpassed his old man as a novelist, and his storytelling gifts are on full display in this personal chronicle of growing up gritty in a dying mill town in post-industrial Massachusetts, transforming himself from a skinny little kid targeted by bullies into a teenage weight lifter/boxer who began to develop an unhealthy fondness for barroom brawling. Some of the macho hunger the son feeds with his fists is obviously the result of his need for his dad’s approval. Obviously, too, there’s a good deal of anger the boy is trying to work out in his journey to manhood. I’ve started a half-dozen books in the last couple of weeks. This is the only one I read from first page to last.