The author of Angela's Ashes has died of metastatic melanoma . The Irish Times (20/7/09) has recalled this author, whose fame came late in life.
FAME CAME late to Frank McCourt. At the age of 66, he became a literary phenomenon when he took two of life’s most potent ingredients " tragedy and humour " and turned them into a best-selling memoir-novel that caught the public imagination and brought its author international recognition that reached its height with the prestigious Pulitzer Prize.
With its focus on a bygone Ireland, Angela’s Ashes did for the Limerick of his working-class childhood what O’Casey had done for Dublin and its tenements " but without the ideological polemic. Like O’Casey, he was first and foremost a storyteller who could hold and transport his legions of devotees. With his intense love of language, he had what was once described as “the perfect Irish brogue: lyrical but penetrable”.
As a memoirist he can be credited with the re-creation of a genre " misery lit " that went on to have a succession of lesser imitators. His more significant legacy, however, is that he took into the realm of book-reading a new audience which might otherwise not have discovered the value and pleasure of literature.
While McCourt became synonymous with Limerick, it came as little surprise that his autobiographical account of poverty and squalor did not initially receive a similarly enthusiastic reception in the city where the book was set. McCourt himself recalled his “epic of woe” as having been “denounced from hill, pulpit and bar stool”.
Posterity, as always, will be the final arbiter on McCourt’s literary merits, but as a record of a time and a place and the grim circumstances of a past generation " even with its hints of literary embellishment and tinted perspective " Angela’s Ashes will endure as a significant and evocative social document.
But it should not be forgotten that his subsequent books " ‘Tis and Teacher Man " are worthy additions to the literature of emigration; his personal life straddled the Irish-American experience and was a wonderful triumph of the human spirit overcoming the adversities handed to him in his Limerick youth while his family’s return to the United States opened to him the possibilities of the American dream which he embraced with the determination of a true survivor to become not only an accomplished writer but also an inspirational teacher in New York. As well as his charm and wit, perhaps McCourt’s most endearing characteristic was reflected in the New York Times review of Angela’s Ashes when it noted that he looked back on his tough formative experiences “with no trace of bitterness”.
My favorite lines by Mcourt were spoken on "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross (NPR).
"The worst thing that happened to the Irish Nation wasnt from British Rule. It was the CAtholic Church that held(and holds) that distinction.
The Jews have no idea about the feeling of guilt. At least they dont have a hell to worry about. We, as a poor Catholic Nation , had , as best spoken by Joyce, The fear of a hell that was encased in a wall a million feet thick, and searing at a million degrees, watched and tormented by a million demons for a million million years"
OF COURSE I EMBELLISHED IT CAUSE I HATE JOYCES WACKY STYLE
HARD TO GET HAPPY WITH THAT IN YOUR CHILDHOOD. Mcourt was one of the greatest witnesses of the rampant excesses of the CAtholic Church on the laity. As such, he became one of my favorite "investigative Reporters" and chroniclers of life in a world ruled by Holy Mother the Church.
Ive always wondered why I seemed so fucked up.Mcourt said it best, and said it most precisely. IMHO.