Creativity runs in Andre Dubus III’s blood. The son of a celebrated short-story writer, Andre Dubus II, and nephew of novelist Elizabeth Neil, he didn't dream of a literary career as a child.
Then one day he felt an inexplicable desire to start writing. From there he dedicated himself to literature and arts — leaving behind the hard-drinking, drug-abusing and fighting of his rough upbringing in the poverty-stricken mill towns along the Merrimack River in Massachusetts for the ambitions of students debating books and ideas.
Dubus will discuss his personal relationship with the creative process of writing and how he escaped a cycle of violence and found empathy in channeling the stories of others — bridging, in the process, the rift between his father and himself — at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 23, in the Mountain Avenue Theatre at Ashland High School, 201 S. Mountain Ave.
Reserved seating is $20 and can be purchased at chautauquawriters.org. General seating is $15 and can be purchased in advance at Bloomsbury Books and Bookwagon. Student tickets are $12 and can be purchased at the high school. General seating and student tickets also will be available at the door.
Dubus feels the creative process is largely an act of humbling oneself to the craft, surrendering completely to the work and abandoning the fear of failure.
He began writing fiction at age 22, 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: his 1999 "House of Sand and Fog," "The Garden of Last Days" (2008), and his 2011 memoir, "Townie." His 2014 book, "Dirty Love," a collection of four short novellas, was named a Notable Book and Editors’ Choice by the New York Times, a Notable Fiction by The Washington Post and a Kirkus Starred Best Book. His other titles include "The Cage Keeper and Other Stories" and "Bluesman."
In 2003, "House of Sand and Fog" was made into an Academy Award-nominated movie starring Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly. The book was published in 20 languages and became a finalist for the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Time Book Prize and Booksense Book of the Year.
During his life, Dubus has worked as bartender, office cleaner, halfway house counselor, self-employed carpenter, college writing teacher and as an assistant to a private investigator. He now teaches at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell.
His early experiences as a troubled teen and an unskilled laborer, along with impressions of people he's met, helped him conceive ideas for his writing.
In "House of Sand and Fog," three fragile but determined people become caught up in an escalating crisis over the same small house. Combining realism with empathy, the book explores the American Dream gone awry.
"Townie: A Memoir" details his childhood in Massachusetts and his turbulent relationship with his father. He writes about how after his parents divorced, he and his three siblings spent much of the time alone while his mother worked to support them. He describes his years as a boxer, how it saved his life and led him to writing.
Novelist and screenwriter Richard Russo calls "Townie" a serious meditation on violence, its sources, consequences and, especially, its terrifying pleasures. It's a brutal and thrilling memoir that sheds real light on the creative process of two of our best writers: Andres Dubus III and his famous, much revered father."
Dubus' newest, "Dirty Love," is a look at disillusioned intimacy and persistent yearning. Here, Dubus explores the bottomless needs and weaknesses of people seeking gratification in food, sex, work and love.
The novellas are linked with characters who walk out the back door of one story and into the next. On the Massachusetts coast north of Boston, a controlling man discovers his wife's infidelity after 25 years of marriage. An overweight young woman finds a romantic partner but loses her innocence. A philandering bartender and aspiring poet betrays his pregnant wife. And in the title novella, a teenage girl, fleeing a dirty image of her posted online, seeks respect in the eyes of her widowed great uncle and an Iraqi vet she's met surfing the Web.
The narratives are punctuated with discontent, aging and death, yet also hold hope and forgiveness and express tenderness toward human beings and their fulfilling and unfulfilling lives, alone and with others.
As a narrator of his books on audio, Dubus won an Audiofile Best Voices of the Year award for "Townie" from Blackstone Audio, an Earphones award for "Dirty Love" and was a finalist for an Audie Award for his short collection "The Cage Keeper and Other Stories."