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Townie by Andre Dubus III
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's review
Nov 15, 11

it was amazing

The path to violence is not one that people can empathize with very easily because it becomes the answer to every question and is the antithesis of a functioning society. Andre Dubus finds himself along this path in “Townie a Memoir”, when his father has an affair, causing the entire family to live at the poverty level and in neighborhoods where kids fight with each other over eye contact. After constant fear of encountering fights he decides that he could either let people keep rearranging his face, or fight back.
Andre, constantly wanting to be invisible and liked, idolized movie stars like Clint Eastwood, and wanted to be the man that fought back and stood up for what he thought was right. His father constantly asked about his life, but throughout the entirety of his life, Andre never told him anything. He wrote this memoir so well that I could feel the tension and social class separation between Andre and his father as they were speaking. In one chapter, he speaks of walking around a neighborhood with his friends, when one of them takes a brick, and in a random act of violence, hits a defenseless woman with it. Later, he wonders how his father could ever understand anything about his life.
Midway through the novel, Dubus used a metaphor for violence that remained constant throughout the rest of the story, and before it. He said that violence is like a membrane that only the will can break. If broken, there isn’t anything stopping the person from committing repeated acts of violence. Andre bulks up and fights the bullies that repeated abuse his younger brother. Later he begins to spiral out of control and become the bully he hated. His dad teaches him that writing can be an outlet for anger, although the anger and violence seems to linger even towards the end of the memoir.
Dubus uses many chapters to show events that caused him to repeat that choice of being violent. His brother almost commits suicide, his sister has an abusive husband, and his siblings are constantly abused by neighborhood kids, anywhere they move. He uses many metaphors to get his message across and towards the end of the novel he sets himself up as the hero of the story, the Clint Eastwood that fights the bullies and makes them wish they never broke their violence membrane.
The Memoir is cleverly written and Dubus never has a pity moment anywhere in the piece. He says the events as they occur and rationalizes the decisions he had to make with the situations that led to them. This memoir truly showed me how to set up people in a non-fiction piece without putting one’s pride in the dirt. He also showed me how a person’s life can have a story if ideas like violence and poverty are constant themes throughout each chapter. This memoir stood on its own as a story of a man who had to deal with having too little power, and not enough.

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