An acclaimed novelist reflects on his violent past and a lifestyle that threatened to destroy him - until he was saved by writing.
After their parents divorced in the 1970s, Andre Dubus III and his three siblings grew up with their exhausted working mother in a depressed Massachusetts mill town saturated with drugs and crime. To protect himself and those he loved from street violence, Andre learned to use his fists so well that he was even scared of himself. He was on a fast track to getting killed - or killing someone else. He signed on as a boxer.
Nearby, his father, an eminent author, taught on a college campus and took the kids out on Sundays. The clash of worlds couldn't have been more stark - or more difficult for a son to communicate to a father. Only by becoming a writer himself could Andre begin to bridge the abyss and save himself. His memoir is a riveting, visceral, profound meditation on physical violence and the failures and triumphs of love.
Summer came and now windows were open and there was Larry's yelling, there was a woman yelling back at him or somebody else in another house, there was the canned laughter and commercial jingles of six or seven TVs, there was a bottle breaking, a drunk singing, a motorcycle or lowrider revving its engine, then peeling away from the curb, there were the smells of hot asphalt, the dusty concrete of broken sidewalks, cat shit and dog shit and gasoline, there was the wood baking in the lumberyard near the Merrimack, again the faint smell of sewage and motor oil and mud, and when the wind blew in from the east you could smell the ocean, dead seaweed and open seashell and wet sand, and it was a Saturday and Jeb and I were running from Clay Whelan and George Labelle and two others I didn't even know; they'd come walking down the middle of Lime Street under the sun and seen us sitting on our stoop doing nothing.
And we were up and running down Lime and across Water ...
What's notable about this memoir of a troubled boy's youth and coming of age is that one might expect a harshness in the voice of someone brought up in such brutal violence, and yet, there's an elegance and restraint throughout, even in moments of searing honesty.
(Reviewed by Julie Wan).
Full Review (866 words).
Andre Dubus was born in 1936 in Louisiana to a Catholic family; he studied journalism and English at McNeese State College; then spent six years in the Marine Corps, during which time he married his first wife and had his first four children, including Andre Dubus III. After leaving the Marines he studied at the Iowa Writer's Workshop. As an ex-Marine turned writer, Dubus (pronounced duh-BYOOSE) had a tough exterior and a tender heart - something he became known for in his work, which often deals with pain, tragedy, violence, and flawed characters with astonishing compassion and kindness. He wrote a few novellas and one novel, Lieutenant (1967), but was mostly devoted to the short story, a form in which he is considered one of the ...
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