“Andre Dubus III has a keen and generous eye, and the great gift of bestowing dignity on even the most confused of his people.” —Tobias Wolff
“Dubus can home in more quickly and efficiently on a character’s inner life than any writer I’ve encountered in recent memory.” —New York Times Review of Books
“Dubus proves himself both an exquisitely careful craftsman and a painstaking recorder of society.” —Boston Magazine
As eloquent in person as in writing, Andre Dubus III speaks to audiences about the path that led him to become a writer—one that pulled him out of a life of violence and allowed him to find his voice through the arts.
Andre Dubus III grew up in mill towns on the Merrimack River along the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border. He began writing fiction at age 22, just a few months after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. He is the author of six books, three of which were New York Times bestsellers: House of Sand and Fog, a #1 New York Times bestseller; The Garden of Last Days (soon to be a major motion picture); and his memoir, Townie, a #4 New York Times bestseller and a New York Times Editors Choice. His most recent book, Dirty Love—a collection of four short novellas—was chosen as a Notable Book and Editors’ Choice from the New York Times, a Notable Fiction from The Washington Post, and a Kirkus Starred Best Book of 2013. His other titles are The Cage Keeper and Other Stories and Bluesman.
Adapted into an Academy Award-nominated motion picture starring Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly and published in 20 languages, House of Sand and Fog was a #1 New York Times bestseller, a fiction finalist for the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and Booksense Book of the Year, and an Oprah Book Club Selection. His memoir Townie is a popular choice for First Year Experience reads on campuses. In the words of author Richard Russo: “I’ve never read a better or more serious meditation on violence, its sources, consequences, and, especially, its terrifying pleasures than Townie. It’s a brutal and, yes, thrilling memoir that sheds real light on the creative process of two of our best writers, Andre Dubus III and his famous, much revered father. You’ll never read the work of either man in quite the same way afterward. You may not view the world in quite the same way either.” And Ann Hood proclaimed: “Growing up in hardscrabble old mill towns, Dubus learned to fight and survive and ultimately to find his own glorious voice. Townie celebrates that voice as Dubus finds his redemptive place in the world at last.”
Mr. Dubus’s work has been included in The Best American Essays and The Best Spiritual Writing anthologies. He has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, The National Magazine Award for Fiction, Two Pushcart Prizes, and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature. His books are published in over twenty-five languages. As a narrator of his audio books, he has won an Audiofile “Best Voices of the Year” award for his 2011 memoir, Townie, (Blackstone Audiobooks), a 2013 “Earphones” award for Dirty Love, (Audible), and is a 2014 Finalist for an “Audie Award” for his short story collection, The Cage Keeper and Other Stories, (Blackstone Audiobooks).
Through the years Dubus worked as bartender, office cleaner, and halfway house counselor, self-employed carpenter, college writing teacher, and for six months worked as an assistant to a private investigator/bounty hunter. He teaches full-time at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Fontaine, a modern dancer, and their three children.
Townie: How Writing Saved Me from a Life of Violence
In his 2010 memoir Townie, Andre Dubus III shares the powerful story of his rough upbringing in the poverty-stricken mill towns of Massachusetts, which were saturated with drugs and everyday violence. Nearby, his father, an eminent author, taught on a college campus and took the kids out on Sundays. The clash between town and gown, between the hard drinking, drugging, and fighting of “townies” and the ambitions of students debating books and ideas couldn’t have been more stark. In this unforgettable lecture, acclaimed novelist Dubus shares how he escaped the cycle of violence and found empathy in channeling the stories of others—bridging, in the process, the rift between his father and himself, and ultimately abandoning his path of violence for a life dedicated to literature and the arts.
Writing & Human Creativity
Although creativity runs through Andre Dubus III’s blood, he long chose to ignore it. Despite being the son of the highly celebrated short story writer Andre Dubus II and the nephew of novelist Elizabeth Nell Dubus, he never dreamed of a literary career. But that all changed one day when he felt an inexplicable urge to start writing, and from there abandoned a life full of violence and dedicated himself to the arts. In this unique presentation, Dubus will discuss his own experience with the creative process, which he feels is largely an act of humbling yourself to the craft, surrendering yourself completely to your work, and abandoning the fear of failure. He will share personal stories and anecdotes that will both entertain and inspire your audience.
Andre Dubus III grew up in mill towns on the Merrimack River along the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border. He is the author of six books including three New York Times bestsellers. House of Sand and Fog was a #1 New York Times bestseller, a fiction finalist for the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and Booksense Book of the Year, and was an Oprah Book Club Selection, and was adapted into an Academy Award-nominated motion picture starring Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly. The Garden of Last Days is soon to be a major motion picture. His memoir, Townie, was a #4 New York Times bestseller and a New York Times Editors Choice. Dirty Love was chosen as a Notable Book and Editors’ Choice from the New York Times, a Notable Fiction from The Washington Post, and a Kirkus Starred Best Book of 2013. Mr. Dubus has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, The National Magazine Award for Fiction, Two Pushcart Prizes, and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature. His books are published in over twenty-five languages.
DIRTY LOVE (Short Story/Novella, 2013)
“In Dirty Love, the new and staggeringly good collection of four not-quite-novella-length stories by Andre Dubus III, we’re presented with characters so disoriented by love they honestly can’t tell whether they’re looking for a way into or a way out of it.” — New York Times
In these linked novellas in which characters walk out the back door of one story and into the next, love is “dirty”―tangled up with need, power, boredom, ego, fear, and fantasy. On the Massachusetts coast north of Boston, a controlling manager, Mark, discovers his wife’s infidelity after twenty-five years of marriage. An overweight young woman, Marla, gains a romantic partner but loses her innocence. A philandering bartender/aspiring poet, Robert, betrays his pregnant wife. And in the stunning title novella, a teenage girl named Devon, fleeing a dirty image of her posted online, seeks respect in the eyes of her widowed great-uncle Francis and of an Iraq vet she’s met surfing the Web. Slivered by happiness and discontent, aging and death, but also persistent hope and forgiveness, these beautifully wrought narratives express extraordinary tenderness toward human beings, our vulnerable hearts and bodies, our fulfilling and unfulfilling lives alone and with others.
TOWNIE (Memoir, 2011)
“In this gritty and gripping memoir, Dubus bares his soul in stunning and page-turning prose.” — Publishers Weekly
After their parents divorced in the 1970s, Andre Dubus III and his three siblings grew up with their overworked mother in a depressed Massachusetts mill town saturated with drugs and everyday violence. Nearby, his father, an eminent author, taught on a college campus and took the kids out on Sundays. The clash between town and gown, between the hard drinking, drugging, and fighting of “townies” and the ambitions of students debating books and ideas, couldn’t have been more stark. In this unforgettable memoir, acclaimed novelist Dubus shows us how he escaped the cycle of violence and found empathy in channeling the stories of others―bridging, in the process, the rift between his father and himself.
THE GARDEN OF LAST DAYS (Novel, 2008)
“Dubus’ hyperdetailed, visceral, and prurient yet undeniably compassionate thriller boldly explores the bewildering complexities of sexuality, and the dire repercussions of isolation and desperation.” —Donna Seaman
In his stunning follow-up to the #1 best-selling House of Sand and Fog, Andre Dubus draws us into the lives of three deeply flawed, driven people whose paths intersect on a September night in Florida. April, a stripper, has brought her daughter to work at the Puma Club for Men. There she encounters Bassam, a foreign client both remote and too personal, and free with his money. Meanwhile, another man, AJ, has been thrown out of the club, and he’s drunk and angry and lonely. From these explosive elements comes a relentless, raw, and page-turning narrative that seizes the reader by the throat with psychological tension, depth, and realism.
HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (Novel, 1999)
“House of Sand and Fog is one of the best American novels I’ve ever read. It’s a stunning book.” —James Lee Burke
In this page-turning, breathtaking novel, the characters will walk off the page and into your life. And a small house will seem like the most important piece of territory in the world. On a road crew in California, a former colonel in the Iranian Air Force under the Shah yearns to restore his family’s dignity. When an attractive bungalow comes available on county auction for a fraction of its value, he sees a great opportunity for himself, his wife, and his children. But the house’s former owner, a recovering alcoholic and addict down on her luck, doesn’t see it that way, nor does her lover, a married cop driven to extremes to win her love and get her house back. Dubus has an extraordinary ability to get us inside each of his characters, to see the world as it is for each of them. These are people with ordinary flaws, people just looking for a small piece of ground to stand on, driven by the same needs into inevitable conflict—a conflict in which even the reader, rooting for all of them, has no safe haven. Unfolding relentlessly from its tense and colorful first lines, House of Sand and Fog is a narrative triumph. It turns both the traditional immigrant success story and a modern love story upside down with a heartrending outcome, in a masterstroke of American realism and Shakespearean consequence. It is an American tragedy, and a shockingly true picture of the country we live in today.
Visits with Pop
On the other side of the river was Bradford. It’s where a lot of Jocks at the high school lived, the kids who wore corduroys and sweaters and looked clean. It’s where houses had big green lawns. It’s where the college was where pop taught. It’s where he lived in an apartment building with Theo Metrakos and his friend Dave Supple, a writer too.
Since leaving our mother, Pop had lived in a few places, but we rarely saw them and never slept there. Years later I would hear my father say the divorce had left him dating his children. That still meant picking us up every Sunday for a matinee and, if he had the money, an early dinner somewhere. For a few years now he was taking us to church too. He’d pull up in his rusted-out Lancer and drive us to Mass at Sacred Hearts in Bradford Square. The five of us would walk down the aisle between the crowded pews, Jeb and I with our long hair, Suzanne in her tight hip- huggers, Nicole in her brace she now wore for scoliosis, Pop one of the only men in church not wearing a jacket or tie. He refused to put money in the collection basket, too. Many times I’d hear him say, “You think Jesus ever wore a [expletive] tie? Did Jesus spend money on buildings?”
One night, when we were still living at the doctor’s house, I heard Mom on the phone trying to convince Pop that he should start taking out each of us one at a time, that he was never going to know us as individual people if he didn’t.
I don’t know if I cared then about that or not, but a cool sweat broke out on my forehead just thinking about being alone with Pop. I’d never been alone with him. What would I say? What would we talk about? What would we do?
When Mom got off the phone, she said, “I can’t believe it. Your father says he’ll be too shy with each of you. He’s scared of his own kids!”
This made me feel better and worse, but every Wednesday night he’d drive up to the house and take one of us back to his apartment across the river. It was on the third floor of an old brick building covered with ivy. Across the street was the Bradford Green, a lawn and trees and a gazebo, and you could see it from his bedroom where his bed was always made and there were shelves of books and his black wooden desk I remembered from when he used to live with us, its surface clean and organized, notebooks stacked neatly beside his typewriter beside his humidor and pipe stand, six or eight of them each with a white pipe cleaner sticking out of the mouthpiece.
HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (excerpt)
The fat one, the radish Torez, he calls me camel because I am Persian and because I can bear this August sun longer than the Chinese and the Panamanians and even the little Vietnamese Tran. He works very quickly without rest, but when Torez stops the orange highway truck in front of the crew, Tran hurries for his paper cup of water with the rest of them. This heat is no good for work. All morning we have walked this highway between Sausalito and the Golden Gate Park. We carry our small trash harpoons and we drag our burlap bags and we are dressed in vests the same color as the highway truck. Some of the Panamanians remove their shirts and leave them hanging from their back pockets like oil rags, but Torez says something to them in their mother language and he makes them wear the vests over their bare backs. We are upon a small hill. Between the trees I can see out over Sausalito to the bay where there are clouds so thick I cannot see the other side where I live with my family in Berkeley, my wife and son. But here there is no fog, only sun on your head and back, and the smell of everything under the nose: the dry grass and dirt; the cigarette smoke of the Chinese; the hot metal and exhaust of the passing automobiles. I am sweating under my shirt and vest. I have fifty-six years and no hair. I must buy a hat.
Read full excerpt here
Read What’s In Print
Listen to Audio