Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: Townie

Townie by Andre Dubus III

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An excellent memoir that hit painfully close to home for me. Andre Dubus explains the pain of divorce for a child and the fearfulness that settles in after the shake up, and how it makes a young boy an easy target for bullies. He goes on to show with artful cogency how this fear turns to armor and muscle, as he heads toward a Golden Gloves match in his early twenties, and pounds the snot out of every bully and wifebeater he sees. This would be a glorification if he didn't delve further, and dig out the nugget of truth behind every white knight. That it is not about saving the damsel, it is about defending his own honor and proving his own mettle.
His slow maturation as a man and a writer make for interesting reading; he lingers on the conflicts and bares the raw nerve endings that made these confrontations occur. It also serves as a sort of biography of his father, the writer of "Killings" and many other classics of short fiction. While it may be painful to see the feet of clay his father had, it shows the roots of his Hemingway-inspired vision of manhood and how falling short of such in front of his own father drove him to a self-absorbed life of narcissism. His father redeems himself in the end, and his life serves as a portrait of the generation that came after WW2 who weren't exactly baby boomers, the war babies, and how they dealt with their war hero fathers.
I'm not usually a fan of memoirs, but this one gripped me. I recognized the relentless coyote stare of the frightened young boy inside the chiseled and toughened man. It was a fascinating and familiar read, a document of young male rage, its roots and causes, and how one angry boy tamed them to become a man, and settle conflicts with his brain and not his fists.

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