Thursday, June 16, 2011
Townie by Andre Dubus III
My personal issues aside, Townie was an interesting book. I read it because it was a Powell's Indiespensable selection, and I was completely unfamiliar with the author (haven't read House of Sand and Fog or any of his father's work). I can't help but think that it would have been more rewarding to read under the following circumstances:
1.) I was previously familiar with his (or his father's) life or writing
2.) I was a guy (lots of weight lifting and fighting in this book)
3.) I could relate to the time or place (1970s Massachusetts)
4.) It was a tad shorter (not enough variance for 387pp.)
Even with these issues, though, it was an enjoyable, lasting read. I appreciated the thoughtfulness and compassion he wrote with--it balanced out his circumstances. After his parents divorced in 1970, Andre was taken out of his academia-entrenched lifestyle and plummeted into the poverty, drugs, and violence of a depressed mill town. He and his siblings were basically left to fend for themselves as their mother struggled to stay afloat (emotionally and financially) and their father lived nearby, somehow unaware of the situation.
This book is a clear picture of how our past looms large. Everyone has things in life that are difficult to process or understand, that are difficult to put behind us and move beyond...things that are typically more monumental in our own minds than could possibly be communicated to anyone else. It is evident within the first few pages that the author has captured the haze through which we view our parents when we are young, and the journey we make to realizing that they--like us--are just people.
What was unique about this memoir is the viewpoint on writing. Andre began life in the midst of some literary greats, but his parent's divorce quickly changed his surroundings. Because of this, he focused on developing his physical strength--something that would help him deal with the life he'd been given--sparing little time for intellectual or creative endeavors. How these extremes ended up balancing out, and how he ended up finding himself as a writer, is fascinating.
So you see: a memoir: a book I'd never have picked up on my own, that I didn't think I would enjoy, ended up being an experience that has stuck with me. One of my next book club books is a memoir, (Look Me in the Eye,) and while my smile obfuscates internal groaning, Townie has given me another reason to hope: another reason to convince myself that memoirs aren't that bad after all.
Author: Andre Dubus III
Published: 2011 W.W. Norton & Co.
Read For: Powell's Indiespensable
My Rating: 3.5 stars (above average!)