Tag Archives: Andre Dubus III

James Franco to direct film based on novel by Andre Dubus III

Thanks to Dave Perry for posting this scoop on Facebook this morning. The source is deadlinehollywood.com. In the works is another movie based on a novel by UMass Lowell writing professor Andre Dubus III:

Mike Fleming

“EXCLUSIVEJames Franco, whose film As I Lay Dying screens in competition at Cannes next month, has locked in his next directorial outing. He’ll helm and play a starring role in Garden of Last Days, an adaptation of the bestselling book byHouse Of Sand And Fog author Andre Dubus III. Shooting will begin July 8 in New York. Millennium Films is financing.

“The film is being produced by Gerard Butler, Alan Siegel, Danielle Robinson and Hanna Weg. Weg, who scripted the Michael Apted-directed Enigma, wrote the script. Longtime Franco collaborators Vince Jolivette and Miles Levy will also produce. Pic is a contemporary thriller set in the seamy underside of American life about three interwoven and ultimately explosive stories: A stripper out of options who brings her 3-year-old daughter to work; an angry, lonely man who gets thrown out of the club; and a foreigner with an endless supply of cash on the brink of committing a terrifying act. Dubus set the novel around 9/11, but gave his blessing to set the film in present day New York. This movie fills up the spring & summer calendar for Franco. After Cannes, he will star in Good People opposite Kate Hudson and Omar Sy. And then he will direct Garden of Last Days. Franco is repped by CAA and James/Levy Management.”

Stephen King at UMass Lowell

In the same year that UMass Lowell and the National Park Service celebrated Charles Dickens’s famous visit to Lowell in 1842, the University hosted the author who is arguably the Dickens of our time when it comes to readership and popular interest—that would be Stephen King, the guy who grew up in the gritty dooryards of northeast Maine with an outsized passion for reading, writing, rock’n'roll, and the Red Sox. He brought his one-man literary power supply station to the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell last night. “This is my first stadium show,” he shouted to the capacity crowd of 4,000 people.

There was a lot of shouting, arm waving, and fooling on stage as he bantered, reflected, and preached. He was both pitcher and catcher to his friend and fellow author Andre Dubus III, who was magnificent as the primary questioner and listener—and the face of the school’s English Department, which gained $100,000 for scholarships on this night. Five thousand dollars came from a raffle of the two armchairs that that guys used on stage and which the featured guest signed boldly in front of everyone at the end of the show.

But back to the crowd. When I was growing up as a writer, I read about the mass audience for poetry in the Soviet Union. Favored poets would fill sports arenas for their readings. In Lowell, I’ve seen a thousand people show up for a group reading by Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and fellow Beat writers. Maya Angelou read to 1,000 in Smith Baker Center for Middlesex Community College. The Lowell Memorial Auditorium drew 2,000 or more for David Sedaris last year, and a similar sized audience for Garrison Keillor. I’ve heard that Robert Frost and T.S. Eliot in their prime filled large performance halls. I’ve never seen anything like the scene last night. King joked at one point that it felt like a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. He’d mention a book title like “The Shining” or “The Tommyknockers” as if name-dropping “Free Bird,” and cheers and applause would erupt. Both he and Andre plugged in to the electric author-love.

The program came in three sections:  Steve and Andre talking shop, King reading a new story about death and regret, and audience questions. Everything worked as if this was the tenth and not the first time the University had tried something like this. About 20 lucky people got a chance to ask a question, including  people who had traveled from Chicago and Pennsylvania—and an 11-year-old girl who charmed everyone when she said out loud, as if pinching herself, ”I’m speaking to Stephen King,” before posing her question. To the woman who asked about Red Sox management decisions, Steve said re-signing David Ortiz was an act of good faith that Red Sox Nation needed.

Stephen said you have to get a buzz off what you are doing as a writer in order to stick with the solitary work. He told touching, gossipy, funny, inspiring, and profane stories about his journey from a rookie writer whose devoted wife fished his first novel “Carrie” out of the trash (he got $2,500 for an advance payment on the hardcover publication. . .and then $200,000 for his share of the paperback publishing rights) to the rarified air of cultural royalty who honored a request from Bruce Springsteen to meet for dinner in Greenwich Village. “Yes, I’d like that,” he told his Rock and Roll Remainders-bandmate and music critic Dave Marsh who had carried the request from The Boss.

Somebody is going to enshrine this Lowell visit by Stephen King in a book the way Dickens wrote about his own visit to the city in the travel book “American Notes.” I hope Andre writes an essay about it. We will have  Dave Perry’s account from the University’s reporting staff. Both of them witnessed the whole spectacular happening. Andre closed out the first part of the program by reading a passage from Steve’s book about writing in which the author describes regaining his strength and capacity to create after being run over by a car many years ago. Here’s the closing thought:

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”

Stephen King (Web photo courtesy of firstpost.com)


City Stories

More than 60 people (“….we must have great audiences.”) showed up at the Old Court last night for part one of City Stories, produced by the Image Theater crew. If you can make it to part two tonight at 8 pm, do yourself a favor and go. I was honored to be among a group of outstanding writers who presented their work on stage very effectively. It was a theater-produced event, after all, so the expectation for high quality delivery was built in. The line-up included Jerry Bisantz, Ann Garvin, June Bowser-Barrett, Dave Daniel,  David Sullivan,  Judith Dickerman-Nelson, Kate Bisantz,  Stephan Anstey, and me. Tonight’s program features Kathleen Deely Pierce,  Stephen O’Connor,  Kassie Rubico, Peter Eliopoulos, Emilie Noelle Provost,  Jack Dacey,  and Andrew Wetmore. The backdrop for the compact stage upstairs at the Old Court consisted of 10 full pages of the Sun newspaper taped to the wall and marked with a letter spelling out C-i-t-y  S-t-o-r-i-e-s.

Publisher and writer Lloyd Corricelli surprised many of the writers with fresh copies of his “River Muse” anthology, a paperback tome packed with prose by many of the very same City Stories writers in the spotlight this weekend. Lloyd has a book-launch event on June 8 at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center. Proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to local veterans support groups. Watch for details about the event on this blog and Facebook.

Listening to my writing colleagues last night I was reminded of another City Stories-type event more than 30 years ago at A. G. Pollard’s, the original brick-and-fern rehabbed eatery and pub on Middle Street, where the Smokehouse can be found these days. Pollard’s had a long, narrow pub room not unlike the Old Court’s upstairs space, a bit more narrow on Middle St. That night, a local organizer had brought together many of the city’s literati, actors, and musicians for a tribute to Lowell’s literary heritage. Somebody was making a film of this. My recollection is that media specialists from the GLRT Voke High School were directing the show. The difference from last night, however, is that circa 1980 we were reading the words of dead writers who had something to do with Lowell: Poe, Kerouac, Larcom, Whittier, Thoreau, and others. Somewhere in my files I have the script of the production. Last night, the writers shared their own work. Seven more will do the same tonight. This says plenty about how far the community has come in 30-plus years. Back then there were a lot of people writing for the newspaper, as well as writing nonfiction and scholarly work, many of them at the University, (note the list of authors in ”Cotton Was King,” the history of Lowell published in 1976), but not so much for novels, short stories, plays, poems, and memoir. Creative writing is booming in Lowell. UMass Lowell now has a concentration in creative writing in the English Department and faculty writers Andre Dubus III, Maggie Dietz, and Sandra Lim. This is only going to get bigger. Major writers like Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, Russell Banks, Anita Shreve, Alan Lightman, Lynda Barry, Jericho Brown, and Stephen King (coming in December) visit UMass Lowell, and David Sedaris and Garrison Keillor speak from stage of Lowell Memorial Auditorium—the way Poe, Emerson, Dickens, and others once made Lowell an important stop on the literary circuit.

After Reading ‘Townie: A Memoir’ by Andre Dubus III

Tom Wolfe titled one of his books “A Man in Full,” and the word “full” came to me when I tried to think of a word to describe the story that Andre Dubus III tells us in his fiercely honest new memoir “Townie.” He grew up between two worlds, the campus life of his father’s Bradford College and his divorced-mom’s mean lanes of Newburyport and Haverhill, hoping not to be paralyzed by a bully’s punch. To survive, he decided he must become a fighter himself, and he became almost too proficient for his own good. I’ve known Andre for a few years and consider him a friend, but it would be presumptuous for me to say I really know him. What he has given me, given everyone, with this story is an astonishing account of about half of his life, if he lives to be 100. He has offered it out of that pure humane generosity that moves the best of artists to try to tell us what it is like to be alive in the world.

I choose the term ”story” because it is not a documentary film of every moment of his past, but that doesn’t mean it is any less true or exact. There is literal truth and there is poetic truth. Looking back, making a composition of memories, the writer of this kind of book does his or her best to convey to the reader what happened, what it felt like, and what it means. It is a huge challenge to reconstitute one’s own experience, and Andre is masterful in the telling with “Townie.”

Other than serving in the military as his father did, Andre’s journey in his first 30 years is about as full a one as a young American man might have. The memoir takes us through his tumultuous first 30 years and ten years beyond, to 1999, when he is deep into his own writer’s life, married, and raising children. Andre’s father was the esteemed writer and a Marine captain of the same name, author of “Separate Flights,” “Voices from the Moon,” and other books. The son’s autobiographical writing doubles as a family-angled biography of his dad or “Pop,” as he calls him.

For those of us who care deeply about this historic place along the river, Andre renders with a painterly realism the people and locations of the lower Merrimack Valley from the days President Kennedy’s administration onward. Like Jane Brox, Dave Daniel, Steve O’Connor, Jay Atkinson, and others writing today, Andre is creating a literature of this place in time. We’re better for this telling and listening. We’re not strangers as much. 

Family sufferings and joys have been the source of great drama forever, and Andre lets us inside his world as he tries to make sense of it on the page. Violence and abuse of every type overload the narrative until the reader wants relief, but imagine what it was for his family to endure what he describes?  We want him to turn the tables, and he does, to the point where he risks almost everthing. There is a crucial moment that sets him on another path, and he says to his father one day: “I think I should be doing something more creative.”

He begins to write stories. Putting words together, forming sentences, finding a way to take his interior life and make it a real thing outside of himself, as substantive as the boards he nailed to earn money—that action deeply affected him. He writes, “I felt more like me than I ever had, . . . and I knew then that if I wanted to stay awake and alive, if I wanted to stay me, I would have to keep writing.”

Lively Debate in Haverhill Sparked by Dubus’ Memoir

The Eagle Tribune’s Haverhill coverage today includes a lively debate about the potential impact of author Andre Dubus III’s memoir “Townie” on the image of the city. Mayor James Fiorentini took exception to initial media coverage of Andre’s book with references to the rough side of life in the Haverhill of the 1970s. The Mayor and the author are quoted in reporter Mike LaBella’s article, and the two of them have spoken about the book, agreeing that Haverhill today has much to recommend it. The Mayor now recommends it. Of interest are the readers’ comments accompanying the web version of the article. Lowell and its reaction to “The Fighter” pops up in the comments. Read all about it here.

I bought the book Friday and read it straight through. I’ll share my thoughts in another post.

Boston Globe Praises Andre’s ‘Townie’

Today’s Globe includes an excellent review by author Brett Lott of Andre Dubus III’s new memoir about growing up and prevailing in Haverhill, “Townie,” which should be in bookstores now. Read the review from boston.com here, and get the Globe if you want more. The photograph of Andre and his dad, acclaimed short-story writer Andre Dubus II, is by Michele McDonald (c) 1992, courtesy of boston.com.

Becoming a writer helped Andre Dubus III forge a relationship with his father, but making himself completely whole took more.

Home Page, NYTimes Online, Our Own Andre Dubus III

“Townie” is a better, harder book than anything the younger Mr. Dubus has yet written; it pays off on every bet that’s been placed on him.

Today’s www.nytimes.com on the home page has a photo, headline, and lead-in to a review of Andre Dubus III’s new memoir “Townie,” in which he recounts “his scrappy youth” in the Merrimack Valley and eventual turn to writing as a way to organize his response to the world. Andre still lives among us in the valley and teaches at UMass Lowell, where he is a professor in the Department of English. This kind of attention is a huge deal for an author. Read the article by Dwight Garner in the Book of the Times feature, and get the nytimes if you want more.

Andre Dubus III (photo by Marion Ettlinger, courtesy of nytimes.com)

Merrimack Valley Literary Renaissance: Bos. Globe, 2001

It’s been ten years since writer Neil Miller in the Boston Globe Magazine shone a spotlight on the Merrimack Valley literary renaissance that was getting noticed at home and far away. The region of Bradstreet, Thoreau, Whittier, Frost, Kerouac, and others has emerged in our time as a literary hotspot. Read the archived article that features Jane Brox, Andre Dubus III, Mary McGarry Morris, Jay Atkinson, Dave Daniel, Chath pierSath, and others. Unfortunately, the archived piece doesn’t include the original photographs of the authors.

All these writers are very different, of course, and it’s hard to find one unifying theme, a single valley sensibility. Brox’s elegiac memoirs and her feeling for place have led her to be dubbed “a latter-day Thoreau.” Until recently, Dubus has been reluctant to write about the Merrimack Valley at all. Still, all are drawn to working-class, sometimes hardscrabble characters, those “practical” types who populate the region. “In the Merrimack Valley, we celebrate the ordinary moment,” says Atkinson. “That is what you write about. There is no uranium mine here.”

The intellectual history of the area reaches back almost to the beginnings of New England’s industrial revolution. In the 1840s, on a trip to America, Charles Dickens paid a visit to Lowell, where he made some unexpected discoveries: Many of the young New England farm women who came to the city to work in the textile mills subscribed to circulating libraries. And some of them were publishing a regular magazine called The Lowell Offering, which he wrote in his book American Notes “will compare advantageously with a great many English Annuals.”