Andre Dubus III's memoir Townie isn’t a literary coming of age story. It’s an exploration of violence and absence. [30:37]
Andre Dubus III: Hi, my name is Andre and I'm a recovering fighter. <laughs> One day at a time. 23 years peaceful.
Jo Reed: Do you feel like you're in recovery?
Andre Dubus III: No.
Jo Reed: I didn't think so.
Andre Dubus III: No, 'cause I really just don't want to punch anyone anymore. I don't even have the itch anymore. When I'm in a situation, where, in the old days, would have been the way to go, I do what I tell my little children, I go to my words. "Use your words, not your fists." You know, I've learned to step into my fears; there's usually great things to be learned there. There's a wonderful line from the ancient Chinese: "If the mad dog comes at you, whistle for him."
That was author Andre Dubus III--talking about his struggle with violence which is one of the issues he explores in his memoir, Townie.
Welcome to Art Works, the program that goes behind the scenes with some of the nation's great artists to explore how art works. I'm your host Josephine Reed.
Andre Dubus III's memoir Townie is unexpected. He is, after all, the son of the renowned short story writer and essayist, Andre Dubus and himself a novelist of note whose books include The House of Sand and Fog --so one opens Townie expecting a literary coming of age story. Instead, we find a meditation on violence, masculinity, and compassion. The younger Andre's life changed dramatically at the age of 10 when his father left home. Andre's mother was left impoverished, struggling to raise and support four young children in a depressed Massachusetts town while his father--although not wealthy--lived the comfortable life of a university professor and writer. The elder Dubus didn't abandon his young family; he took the kids for a few hours each Sunday. But he wasn't a presence in their daily lives. He didn't father them.
As the eldest kid, Andre III felt a need to become the man of the house; an impossible task until he learned how to fight, and how to fight very well. According to a boxing coach, the young Dubus had a killer instinct...and that was the problem. He began to enjoy the brutality. Luckily, over time, he developed the self-awareness to recognize his addiction to violence, the talent to write himself out it, and the heart to come to terms with his father. Townie is the story of that trajectory. Andre Dubus III explains how his memoir came about.
Andre Dubus III: Well, I had no intention of writing a memoir at all. I haven't even read that many memoirs. I was working on a personal essay, and I actually had a contract to deliver a collection of personal essays to my publisher later in that year. This was after my novel The Garden of Last Days in 2008, and I was working on this essay, which was fueled by the question, "How did I miss baseball?" My two sons are teenagers. They're wonderful athletes and ballplayers, and I got into sports through them. I didn't get it from an older generation. So the question was, "How come?" And what that question led to, what I was doing instead, which was living with my three siblings and our single mother in poverty, moving two to three times a year for cheaper rent, living in some pretty tough neighborhoods, getting beat up a lot. At 15 I snapped and began to change my body and become a fighter and fight back, and then I was, I was a pretty violent young man till my mid, late 20s when I discovered writing, and that, and a few other things, got me off the fighting path. And that's really what the book's about. But it's a completely accidental memoir, and semi-reluctant-- <chuckles>-- at that.
Jo Reed: Well, when the book opens your family is living together, your father teaches at the university, and you're living in a kind of intellectual household, and that's what you had.
Andre Dubus III: Yeah. It looked like that's where we were headed. My father wasn't famous then. He was just beginning as a graduate student. But yeah, we looked like we'd be heading maybe living on college campuses and having a house full of books and cultured, creative people coming and going. But then they got divorced, and--
Jo Reed: And then--
Andre Dubus III: Things changed.
Jo Reed: Things changed.
Andre Dubus III: And you know, hopefully this book is about a lot more than violence. I mean, it's certainly a meditation on physical violence because it's something I know a lot about, and sadly a lot of young men know a lot about. But to me it's also a meditation on the importance of extended family. I mean, my family-- my mother and father were both from Southern Louisiana. They ended up in New England for a teaching job for my father. When their marriage broke up, there was no extended family to help out-- no brother, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, grandparents-- nobody. They were all two thousand miles away. And my mom, as gregarious and beautiful and charismatic as she is, for some reason-- this happens so often in divorce-- the friends side with one spouse over the other, and they all drifted off with my father. So she was left pretty much friendless, broke, and no family around. And so it really-- it brought us-- and here's the thing: My father never made any money in his life, and especially in the early years it was-- he was making seven thousand dollars a year as a teacher in a junior college. So now his seven thousand dollars has to support not only our rented house and our used car, but now his new used car and his rented apartment. And so we went from poor to poorer. And that really began an adolescence that was different for the trajectory you thought we would have been on.
Jo Reed: It gives you the sense of there are two different kinds of poverty. There was the kind of poverty that your father was living in, which was the kind of poverty within a green world.
Andre Dubus III: Yeah.
Jo Reed: And there was the kind of poverty that you and your mother and your siblings were living in, which was like the dirt-poor, working class, rusted out poverty.
Andre Dubus III: Yeah. Well said. Yeah. I mean, my father-- I've been a little defensive of him. Some reviews have characterized him as having abandoned the family, but that makes it sound to me like he drove off, never sent any money back and was living better than we did. He didn't live better than we did. Well, he did-- <chuckles>-- in some way. Certainly he lived on campus or he lived-- he lived on the nice side of town. One of the things that I found really fascinating writing this book, and I enjoyed more writing these sections than cutting myself open so much, but was describing that river, the Merrimack River running through these mill towns. And we grew up in Haverhill, which is not all gritty. There's some certainly nice neighborhoods in Haverhill. But we lived in the area where you just go across the street and it's really a drug-infested crime area, and that's where we prowled as adolescents. And my father lived across the river in Bradford, where the college was, where it was a more genteel area. And so psychologically, you're right. His world was so much different than ours in tone and in feeling, and just general physical appearance that I don't think he ever really quite knew how differently we lived from him.
Jo Reed: Well, it seemed that you all were in a little bit of a conspiracy to keep him in the dark, because you were protective of your mother, truly an extraordinary woman. I mean, my hat is off to her raising four kids and working one or two jobs trying to do it.
Andre Dubus III: Without descending into understandable alcoholism and drug addiction, like a lot of women in that situation. Well, you're very right, and you're the first to point that out. I don't think I even pointed it out literally in the book. But yeah, we all knew that if we really came to Pop to say, "The house is overrun with a bunch of druggies during the day, and mom's completely overwhelmed and depressed, and there's not enough food," he'd go after her. And frankly, she just didn't have enough money and enough resources to do what she would have liked to have done for us too-- but you're right. Yeah. We didn't tell him everything because he would have gone after her. Good point.
Jo Reed: I was surprised that each Thanksgiving, your father would come to the house and you'd all pretend to be a happy family. That seems so painful to me.
Andre Dubus III: Yeah, it was a big charade. And I think this is true of a lot of divorced families, where-- when the father and mother reunite in the house. Everyone's just on their best behavior, and it's just all so ritualized. Yeah, I mean, my mother was a wonderful cook, and when she was a housewife-- which is a term we don't use anymore, and it's probably good-- but she took great pride in cooking a lot of wonderful meals from scratch. And we were broke, and so she had cheap ingredients to work with. But those holiday dinners when my father would come and sit at the table, she was working hard on being the cook she was, and we were all working hard on looking as if we were doing better than we were. He sat at the head of the table, as if he were the man of the house, and there was no man of the house. There hadn't been a man of the house since he left. And that's one of the things-- that's one of the things-- and you and I have talked before. What I love about writing and what terrifies me about writing-- but I think the only reason I write is to go where the writing takes me. It's an act of deep mining. And writing this accidental memoir, Townie, I realized it wouldn't-- he drove away that day when I was ten years old. I really did tell myself I was the man of the house now. I could never live up to that.
Jo Reed: I felt like there was so many ways in which this book was you grappling with that, and what does that-- first of all, the definition of, what does it mean to be the man of the house. Does that mean you're the one who opens the door when somebody comes banging on it at ten o'clock at night? I mean, what exactly does that mean?
Andre Dubus III: Yeah, well for me-- and maybe if we'd lived in different neighborhoods or had a different trajectory from that moment in 1969 when he left, it would have been different. But for me, because we began to live in scrappy neighborhoods with a lot of tough, mean kids prowling the streets, I began to quickly see that the man of the house is a protector of the house, is someone who looks after the safety of the people in it. And I couldn't do that. I was a small, terrified little boy. And stayed that way until I began to become a raging maniac in my teens.
Jo Reed: When I read the book, I felt like if you had grown up on the other side of the river, I just don't think that raging maniac would have been there. I mean, I don't think it's anything inherent at all.
Andre Dubus III: No, no, it was created, for sure. And I'm glad you say that, because over the years I've worked with tough kids in corrections and in group homes. In my early 20s and 30s I did a lot of that work, and I always identified with them. I always saw that these really antisocial, dangerous young men were created. They were created. In a different scenario, if they were really nurtured and guided, they might be taking this drive and throwing football passes and scoring an A in their physics exam. But yeah, no, my rage was created. But another thing that I discovered, and probably the most -- without a doubt, I can tell you, the most difficult part of writing this memoir Townie was having to write about other people in my life. I read a quote from someone, I don't know who said it, but it was a writer. He said, "If you're going to write memoir, you should be able to sue yourself for libel." And I really liked that. I thought, "Okay, that's the kind I'm going to write." But you know, the danger here is you'll try to make yourself look better than you really were, and you'll try to make the reader feel sorry for you, and it can be really dishonest. And the handful of memoirs I have read are really Tobias Wolfe's two memoirs, This Boy's Life and In Pharaoh's Army, and what I loved about those was he was just unsparing in his portrait of himself. And I thought, "That's the way to get the reader's trust, is to really show all your warts and all your flaws." But what I wasn't prepared to do was to show any of the shadow of my own family. So for the first draft, I actually left them all out. I left them out, and then I read it and said, "Well, this is a big, fat lie. I didn't grow up in a vacuum. How could I leave out my brother's suicidal attempts? How could I leave out my sister's sexual assault? How could I leave out this, this, this?" And, the help of a couple of friends, and my editor, I finally was able to open those doors.
Jo Reed: How? How were you able to work through it?
Andre Dubus III: I came up with a strategy: I would only write about them where their lives intersected mine. So, if I'm in a room when my brother is holding a gun that he wants to turn on himself, I cannot write my story without writing that. And again, the writing will teach the writer something. I think the writing is always larger than the writer, if you're writing honestly and deeply and enough, and curiously enough. And one of the things I discovered writing this was all that little boy rage-- all the rage that made me a surprisingly effective fighter when I got older, I thought, "Oh, that's the little boy bullied rage that's finally got an outlet." No, it was also the impotence of not being able to keep my younger brother from wanting to die, not being able to protect my sister from a gang rape, not being able to protect my other sister from depression, my mother from this, and, you know, it pent up in me incredible negative power that I was able to use as a physical fighter. But the big realization and insight for me writing this, at least about me and my brother, was I turned all that darkness outward and became literally homicidal. He turned it all inward and became literally suicidal. And I don't think that's an uncommon dynamic in certain families.
Jo Reed: And your sister, Nicole, your youngest sister, basically just shut herself off. She literally put a padlock on her door.
Andre Dubus III: She literally put a padlock on her door when she was 12, which is still a heartbreaking image to me, because the house was just run wild with kids, and--
Jo Reed: Because your mother was out working.
Andre Dubus III: She was working 14 hours a day, and she'd come home exhausted, open a can of soup and crash, and get up and do it again. You know, she read this book and wrote me an incredibly generous letter. I was really worried about her reading it because I allowed myself to show how overwhelmed she was and how she really kind of gave up the reins for a few years. And she's a very good writer, so what I'm about to say is not nearly as articulate and beautiful as she put it in the letter-- but basically she said, "I was one of the five kids in that house. I was as overwhelmed and abandoned and hurt and confused as all you." And she said, "I saw no way out of it. I saw no way out of the lives we were living." And that was gratifying to see, because that's how it felt emotionally, is she was just trying to get through each day. I mean, there was never a cocktail party at our house. There was never a friend over. There was never-- I mean, it was just endurance. Years of endurance. To the point that my younger sister, Nicole, you just talked about-- she's a professor and a psychologist-- very accomplished woman. Matter of fact, all my siblings--
Jo Reed: All of your-- yeah. You all are.
Andre Dubus III: Everyone's doing well, which is miraculous, and I have to give credit I think to my mother for her love for that. I think that's the one ray that we have to talk about. But my sister Nicole won't read the book. And that's okay with me. She said she just can't go back to those years. She'll read my fiction but she cannot go back to those years. It was just too painful, and she'd rather not. And I don't blame her.
Jo Reed: You became not just a fighter, but a disciplined fighter. The discipline you had was extraordinary. You weren't some kid just flailing about out on the playground. You were on a mission.
Andre Dubus III: Yeah, I became almost like a monk or an ascetic. I became an ascetic. Yeah, I became a really disciplined machine. Well, here's the thing-- and you read the book, so you know that the day that this grown man beat my little brother up and I couldn't defend him-- something just broke inside me. And I actually looked at my face, my fourteen-year-old face in the mirror, and said, "I don't care if you get shot, stabbed, beaten to death. You're never going to not fight back again." And I began to exercise that day, and within eighteen months I transformed my body and got into my first fight, ironically defending my brother after a thug pushed him down the stairs, and I knocked this kid's teeth out with one punch and-- his two front teeth. And I was off on my quest to hurt bad people. That's just what it was: "I'm going to hurt bad people, people being mean to people. I'm going to go find them." And I went looking. And I did crazy things, like a thousand sit-ups before I started working out. Well, a thousand sit-ups takes three hours-- without stopping, till my lower back was bleeding from being chafed on the floor. I missed a workout once with my buddy who's in the book, Sam, and-- I didn't put this in the book-- but we ran six miles in two feet of snow at midnight with ten-pound bars in our hands. I mean, you know, knee-deep snow. Crazy stuff like that. Ate just protein and water. It was just a crazy ten years of my life. But over the years I've identified with soldiers and monks and priests, or anyone who is called to great self-sacrifice for some higher aim in their minds. And my higher aim was to be the kind of man who could really defend people and not let them down. And thank god I got off that track.
Jo Reed: Take this the right way, please-- but when I was reading this, the idea of the superhero came to me.
Andre Dubus III: Well, it almost seems comical. It almost seems comical. And I've said this over the years-- I was in therapy in my early 40s, and I remember telling the shrink, I said, "You know, honestly, you could just put a cape and a mask on me." I mean, I hate cruelty, I hate bullies, I hate bullying. So I would never go pick on anyone. I would go look for somebody who was hitting somebody smaller or hitting a woman, and I'd go nuts. Now, hopefully what's in the book too, hopefully I'm very honest about the fact that on the surface it looked like I was Clint Eastwood, Chuck Bronson. But honestly, I was doing it for me. There’s a real narcissistic element here, where I literally could not bear, as a young man, my own reflection to myself as a coward. So I was willing to do whatever it took to not have that reflection glaring back at me, including hurting other people or myself. That’s a really self-absorbed thing. So you would think on the surface, "Oh, that's nice. He beat up that guy who hit that woman." Yeah, but that was just an excuse for me to also get in a fight. Believe me, I wanted to protect the woman, but I also wanted to protect that little coward reflection in me. And that was narcissistic.
Jo Reed: And you're also pretty clear about the thrill of actually inflicting damage on somebody else.
Andre Dubus III: Yeah. There was a real adrenaline rush to it, you know, I've never been a sports guy. I've never played any of these games. But I would imagine that well-placed right cross to the chin that drops a man 60 pounds bigger than you and a foot taller-- that must feel like hitting a ball out of the park. And that was addictive. And here's the thing too-- and I went into a few scenes in the book-- I got a lot of social rewards, mainly from cops.
Jo Reed: You did.
Andre Dubus III: I got nothing but pats on the back.
Jo Reed: And also from your father.
Andre Dubus III: Oh, my father put me on a pedestal for it. So it was kind of hard, as a kid who had no males-- really adult males in my life, it was hard to let go of that social reward I got from it.
Jo Reed: This became a way of bonding with your father, in this odd kind of way. Your father was never in a fight, but he--
Andre Dubus III: Not till the one we got into together.
Jo Reed: Right. But he clearly valued physical confrontation in some way.
Andre Dubus III: Sure.
Jo Reed: And he owned a ton of guns.
Andre Dubus III: Right. Yeah. My sister is very open about her having been raped, and I go into it in detail in the book because it really affected me and the path I was on, and it affected my father. His response to it was to just start acquiring a bunch of handguns. And whenever he'd go into town, you know, Boston, with his young wife, or out to-- he'd start carrying handguns. And-- he's written beautifully about this, by the way, in an essay he published in the New Yorker I think in the early '90s, called "Giving Up the Gun." But yeah, he was never in a physical fight, and he did put me on a pedestal, and I did become his physical trainer and gave him whatever advice I was learning from my own activities in the bar scene down there in Haverhill, Mass in the '70s. But you’re right. We became drinking buddies in my early 20s. We hung out in bars. We'd go running together sometimes, or lift weights together. And in a lot of ways I got some something with my father-- a lot of men don't get their fathers-- a lot of young men don't get-- I mean, I got this really relaxed, enjoyable, ball-busting guy to be with. But once I became a father, I realized I never had a father father. I mean, he never did any-- he never gave advice or did any of those teaching, nurturing things that boys need. But by the time I did get him, I was beyond really needing that. Here's the big surprise, too. So I gave myself permission to write about where my life intersected my family, mainly my mother, my siblings with whom I lived. But I naively assumed, Jo, that I wouldn't have to write about my father at all because he wasn't in our lives. He picked us up on a Sunday for a couple of hours, dropped us off. But what the writing taught me-- and again, it's what I love about writing, that Grace Paley line, "We write what we don't know we know"-- is as I went back to those years in the early '70s in the mill town, his absence in our lives became a huge presence in the book. And one thing writing Townie taught me is I was more fatherless than I ever consciously admitted to myself. Because I know families where the father literally drove away and never came back, and never sent a dime back. And that's total abandonment. He didn't abandon us in that way, but when the father or the mother doesn't live with the kids and only sees them for a couple hours' visitation on a Sunday, that's not the same.
Jo Reed: It was also extraordinary to me the pockets of ignorance that you had, given who your father was, that your father was a lifelong baseball fan. He loved the Red Sox-- which is probably his problem right there, I say as a Yankees fan, but we'll let that one sit-- and you didn't even know what Fenway Park was.
Andre Dubus III: No, no.
Jo Reed: I mean, that to me says more about what-- the disconnect.
Andre Dubus III: Yeah, nor did my brother. Yeah, to this day I still don't know why he never took us to a game. And I tell you-- I write about in the book-- the first game I ever saw was a Yankees-Red Sox game at Fenway with my friend, Sam, who explained everything to me. I'd never watched a baseball game on TV; I'd never seen one in a little league field. And by the way, I'm getting a lot of letters since this book came out, and there are a lot of guys like me out there who fell through the cracks, and they tend to have similar factors going on. One of the big factors is, again, the no extended family. So the father's gone, but there are also no uncles, no older cousins. My little brother was as oblivious as I was. We moved two to three times a year, so we didn't make friends easily. And so there were no friends or fathers of friends. Because I was a new kid all the time in school, no teachers knew who I was nor did I let them know who I was. Because I wasn't part of that world, I didn't go out for sports, even know much about them, so there were no coaches. And so we just really fell through those cracks. Did not know a damn thing about baseball or football. My brother to this day-- what began that essay that began the book was-- 41 years old, he looked at me and he said, "So what, there's an American league and a National league?" Forty-one years old. I say, "Yeah." <laughs> "I guess so." Yeah, there you go. And the irony is my sons are just golden-boy athletes-- jocks. I mean, encyclopedias of baseball knowledge. My oldest son wants to be a sports journalist, <chuckles>, and he's a varsity pitcher. It's cool.
Jo Reed: What team do they root for? I'm just asking.
Andre Dubus III: Let me put it to you this way, Jo, okay? I say to them, "Look, if your only chance to play major league ball was if the Yankees were going to draft you, that's the only team that was ever going to draft you in the major leagues, would you play?" They say, "No, we wouldn't play major league ball." Sorry. They hate the Yankees. As do I. Because I'm a sports fan now. <laughs>
Jo Reed: When did you discover your father's writing?
Andre Dubus III: Late in my teens. Yeah, I would-- seventeen, eighteen. And I remember just being stunned at how beautiful he wrote. And I-- and I believe this is in the book. It was the story "Killings," which ultimately was made into the film In the Bedroom, which came out the year after my father died. And I read that story and had to go for a walk, because I felt so much. And I remember having the insight that, "Oh, this is where my father's been my whole life, in these pages with these people, these imaginary people that he writes about so well." And that was a good piece of learning. And my father wrote about this. He said he used his family to relax with. "I work, I do my writing, I do my teaching, I do my running"-- not necessarily that order-- "and I relax with family." Well, I'm not of that generation. I don't relax with family. That's my main job. My main job is a father. That's a job. It's not a state of being. It's a job description, and there's no relaxing as a father. There are moments where you sit back, but it's a job. There are things to do. But look, writing this I felt no anger at my father.
Jo Reed: No, that was pretty damn clear. I mean, I have to say.
Andre Dubus III: Yeah. None at my mother. Yeah.
Jo Reed: This is not a "Woe is me" story, and--
Andre Dubus III: Good.
Jo Reed: --somebody had asked me about it and I said what is stunning is the lack of anger he has towards his father.
Andre Dubus III: Yeah, you know, that's not to say I didn't have some. I did have some early on in my life, but I don't anymore. I've forgiven him. I've forgiven him his flaws. And here's the thing, too: It's my turn. My kids can talk about my flaws in 20 years. The truth is-- and I wasn't thinking this writing this memoir-- I was not really thinking this, but I see it there now. You know, there's a great line from Flannery O'Connor. She said, "A writer's beliefs are not what she sees, but the light by which she sees." Well, I know one thing I believe about people. I think 99.9 percent of us get out of bed every day trying to have the best day we know how to have. That's not the same as having the best day we can have. Right? That's where growth comes in. I think my father did the best he knew how to do given his limitations, his resources, the generation he was from-- whatever. Could he have done better? Oh, hell yeah. A lot better. But did he do the best he knew how? Yeah, I think he did. As did my mother. As I am doing now, hopefully. I'm doing the best I know how to do. Can I do better as a husband and father? Oh, yes I can. <chuckles> Here-- here's a little moment from my life. My oldest son, Austin, last June, Father's Day-- this is how his card-- Father's Day card begins: "Dear Dad, even though you're a hothead, I'm proud to be your son." So we can see there's shadow-- there's shadow here too.
Jo Reed: But at the same time, there's a father who is absent in your life, but then you could read short stories in which-- and I'm thinking of "The Winter Father," for example, in which he talks about a father leaving his family.
Andre Dubus III: Yeah, and writing with great passion about his love for them. And I remember when I read that story I was surprised. My father's writing was, I was struck by the-- again, the artistry. He's a beautiful writer and a master short story writer. But I remember feeling surprised that the father loved his kids so much. And that's just really an insight I've had in the last few years. And-- but I think what you're getting at Jo-- and don't let me put words in your mouth-- but my father's writing was just really-- and is, present tense, still remains-- characterized by so much compassion, insight, love-- dare I say it-- wisdom, even though so many of his characters are fallen and flawed. There's really almost a divine light suffused through so much of my dad's writing. But he was not that kind of guy, and he'd be the first to tell you not to confuse the art with the artist.
Jo Reed: And that's hard. I mean, but I would imagine it's especially hard when you're his kid.
Andre Dubus III: Yeah. Well, not for me. I never confused the art with him, because I knew him. <laughs> I was surprised such great stuff came out of him. Not that he was a bad guy. It was just he was-- he was a regular guy with regular guy flaws, including horrible lack of monogamous impulses.
Jo Reed: Now, what about when you began writing? How did your father respond to that? Was there--
Andre Dubus III: Well, very generously, I have to say. Which, by the way, was one of his finer traits as a man, was he was very generous in a lot of ways with friends and family. It's why 800 people showed up at his funeral. It wasn't just because he wrote so beautifully. It was because-- people either loved him or hated him. And if you loved him, you loved him, and you tended to love him because he was giving to you in some way. So when I began to write, I didn't show him my work for a few years. And then I began to show him work-- when I showed a friend, and a girlfriend, I'd show him at the same time. And he was always a lot easier on it than I wanted him to be. He was actually-- he wasn't critical enough. But he called me a writer fifteen years before I called myself a writer. And he did it right away. As soon as he saw my work, he said, "You're a writer." You know, if I looked at my life and my name and my father from the outside, the way everyone else has to, I would think, "Oh yeah, well it must have been hard to enter that shadow." I saw no shadow. I was not aware of a shadow. There is one, certainly, artistically there, reputation-wise. But I wasn't thinking along those lines, because I never wanted to be a writer, and when I began to write, it was actually something that was saving my very life, and it was never a career choice. I really just didn't think of it as a career. I thought of it as a way to live. And to me, the difficulty later became wanting to separate from the father that I never had in the first place, having to bear the perception of strangers that we were somehow joined, that I had somehow been fathered and nurtured, when in fact it was my mother who did it all, and my mother who got lost, and my mother who got no credit. And that was hard to bear, for her. You'll notice that my kids all have their own name. I think kids need their own name. They need to be free to fly off on their own. That said, I'm proud to have my name, and it's my name. <chuckles> Consider me the Hank Junior and Hank Williams III of American Lit. <laughs>
Jo Reed: And I will do that. Thank you.
Andre Dubus III: Thank you so much.
That was writer Andre Dubus III. We were talking about his memoir, Townie.
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