Yet now I’m reading his son’s memoir, Townie, and I’m crushed. I didn’t even realize he had a son until the son, Andre Dubus III, started gaining recognition several years ago for his novels, which are very good. The memoir is better: unflinching and raw.
I have about 100 pages to go, and I should probably wait to finish until I weigh in, but whatever kind of redemption happens in those final pages doesn’t erase the fact that the father, whom I revered, chose art over his family when they were young and needed him most. While they were scrambling to find their next meal, he was living an orderly life on a campus nearby, teaching and writing and running. I’m a little devastated, which may be an oxymoron, but that’s what it feels like. If I actually knew the guy or if he was a family member, I’d leave out the little, I suppose. But still.
I keep reminding myself of the thought I often have during the eulogy at a funeral. A eulogy is a time of kindness. The person in the box may not have always lived up to the kind words, but that doesn’t diminish the truth of the words. We’re all flawed, and there are many truths.
ADDENDUM. 18 May 2011. Finished Townie yesterday. My disillusionment lingers, but it pales in light of the redemption Dubus describes. The elder Dubus doesn’t change much, he barely realizes his flaws and failures, yet the ties that the father and son forge is built on bedrock. This is a good damn book.