Monday, July 20, 2009

News: Author Frank McCourt Dies at Age 78

Ah boo...I'd read Frank McCourt had taken a turn for the worse last week but, as usual, you never expect death so soon.

A friend of mine, who, much like me, has read most of Malachy McCourt's writings but not "Angela's Ashes" for the same reason (McCourt wrote a great sad story, almost too well), had a great summation about his passing;

""Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood,"...probably one of the best openings since ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...’...for letting you know exactly what you are about to dive into...a wonderful bit of writing to open a book...

It’s a shame...he could write a great sad story...so much so I couldn’t bear it...it’s a shame he couldn’t write a sad story funny...then again, guess that’s his brother’s gift...sorry to see him go...especially in that manner...suppose to be a horrible death...not many good story tellers around...and you can never have too many...that’s a loss of a good one...

but as I’m sure he’d agree...it was a miracle he lived at all...and he did live...so good for him...shame he didn’t get more time though...it usually is...

Here's what the NY Post said about McCourt's passing today:
Frank McCourt, the beloved raconteur and former city schoolteacher who enjoyed post-retirement fame as the author of "Angela's Ashes," the Pulitzer Prize-winning "epic of woe" about his impoverished Irish childhood, died yesterday of cancer.

McCourt, who was 78, had been gravely ill with meningitis and recently was treated for melanoma. He died at a hospice.

Until his mid-60s, the Brooklyn-born McCourt was known primarily as a creative-writing teacher and as a New York City character, singing songs and telling stories with his brother Malachy and joining the crowds at the White Horse Tavern and other literary hangouts.

But there was always a book or two being formed in his mind, and the world would learn his name, and story, in 1996.

With a first printing of just 25,000, "Angela's Ashes" was an instant success.

"F. Scott Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American lives. I think I've proven him wrong," McCourt later said. "And all because I refused to settle for a one-act existence, the 30 years I taught English in various New York City high schools."

McCourt was good company in the classroom and at the bar, but few had such a burden to unload.

His parents were so poor that they returned to their native Ireland when he was little and settled in the slums of Limerick.

Simply surviving his childhood was a tale. His father drank up the little money his family had. Three of his seven siblings died, and he nearly perished from typhoid.

"Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood," was his unforgettable opening.

The book was a long Irish wake, "an epic of woe," McCourt called it, finding laughter and lyricism in life's very worst.

"Angela's Ashes" became a million seller, won the Pulitzer and was made into a movie of the same name.

Much of his teaching career was spent in the English Department at Stuyvesant HS, where he shared personal stories with his classes, slapped a student with a magazine, and took on another with a black belt in karate.

After "Angela's Ashes," McCourt continued his story in " 'Tis," which told of his return to New York in the 1940s, and in "Teacher Man."

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