, Salem, MA

January 3, 2013

Heard Around Town: He has a pen and talks, too

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — PEABODY — Andre Dubus III, author of “House of Sand and Fog,” will be on hand at the Wiggin Auditorium on Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. to lift some of the fog when it comes to his award-winning writing career. Maybe he’ll tell how he does it.

His novel “House of Sand and Fog” became a celebrated movie, nominated for various Academy Awards, and featured Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly. Apparently, neither of them is coming, but then without Dubus, they wouldn’t have had much to say in the movie.

The son of a well-regarded fiction writer who lived on the North Shore, the other Andre Dubus, this Dubus teaches at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, has written several works and is publishing a book called “Dirty Love” in late 2013. The Friends of the Peabody Institute Libraries are sponsoring his appearance.

If you’re interested, call 978-531-0100, ext. 10, or register online at

What happens next

You might think the glass is half-empty, but some distinguished Peabody residents are more optimistic. Asked to make some predictions about 2013, they were generally upbeat.

Retired Senate Majority Leader Fred Berry is looking to a world where tempers cool and “the mood will soften. I think a lot of the anger that’s come to the fore lately will fade. The tide will go out. We will have a more tranquil and healthier discourse.” Partisanship will grow faint, he believes.

Former Peabody Mayor Michael Bonfanti is equally upbeat. For that matter, listen to him and you might run out and buy that new car. “I think the economy is going to turn for the better,” the one-time bank examiner said. “For the first time, I feel confident.”

On the other hand, Bonfanti expects some better behavior. “If Congress doesn’t do its job, then my prediction is there are going to be some new faces there.” Citing the recent “fiscal cliff” compromise, he sighed, “What they did is not going to cure anything.”

One-time City Councilor Judy Selesnick shares some the mayor’s frustrations with the powers-that-be, although she isn’t naming names. On the other hand, she sees some hope emerging from all the difficulties of 2012.

Unhappy events, Selesnick believes, will lead to closer examination of governments and other organizations. “And hopefully, that will benefit the citizens.”

Offering a more cautious view of all this is Bill Power of the Historical Society — maybe that’s because he knows more history. “I predict,” he says, “that we won’t be any smarter at the end of 2013 than we were at the end of 2012.”

Well, we can hope.

Helping education

The Peabody Education Foundation, helmed by City Councilor Dave Gravel, is about to unveil the George Peabody Legacy Award.

You don’t get this award by being educated — although it will probably help. Rather, it goes to people who pitch in and help the cause of education in Peabody. In other words, they follow in the footsteps of the town’s namesake and favorite son, 19th-century millionaire/philanthropist George Peabody. He contributed the Peabody Institute Library, for example.

“So many people out there have done a lot to advance scholarship,” Gravel says, “and they don’t get a lot of recognition.”

You can’t name the city after them. Thus, the George Peabody Legacy Award seems like the next best thing. A formal announcement regarding the award will come at the library on Jan. 8 at 10 a.m.