Sunday, August 16, 2009

McCourt's Ashes

After the sad passing of Frank McCourt recently, I decided it was time to reread Angela's Ashes. It must be almost a decade since the first time I read it, and I was amazed at how much I had forgotten. Perhaps the forgetting was a defense mechanism, for his tale is so sad and depressing that forgetting seems like the most appropriate way to deal with it.

But, as McCourt's life of survival and success would suggest, remembering it and talking about it makes all the difference. For Frank McCourt, survival was success. If you're unfamiliar with his story, McCourt was born in the United States to parents who were on the cusp of poverty and quickly fell deep into it as the children arrived with regularity. Two of young Frankie's brothers and his sister died from hunger and ignorant neglect. His father's alcoholism and inability to hold a job hammered nails into his children's coffins.

It is a powerful story, made doubly so because it is true. As a lover of fiction, even I must admit that this memoir stands above many of the greatest works of fiction. It is written from the perspective of young Frankie, and he hides nothing from his audience — not even his frequent masturbation — making him indelibly real in the reader's mind.

I haven't read his other works: Tis or Teacher Man, but he will be best remembered for Angela's Ashes. And I recommend it to all. It is a sad tale, but it is most certainly worth reading.

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