Monday, July 20, 2009

Angela’s Ashes Author Dead at 78

Frank McCourt died in a Manhattan hospice on Sunday after a battle with meningitis and skin cancer. The outpouring of love for the Irish-American author who won the Pulitzer Prize for Angela’s Ashes in 1997 has been intense. Time’s Lev Grossman takes a long and luscious look at the author’s life here:
McCourt was born in Brooklyn in 1930 -- he would later, much later, memorably describe the scene of his conception in his memoir -- but he grew up in Ireland. His parents were both Irish immigrants, and they moved back there, to Limerick, in an effort to stay ahead of McCourt's father's drinking problem. They didn't succeed. Malachy, Frank's father, worked intermittently as a laborer, but he drank constantly.
The Boston Globe’s Kevin Cullen recalled an early interview with the author:
A few hours after Frank McCourt learned he had won the Pulitzer Prize for “Angela's Ashes,” I went to see him at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, where he was staying.

In what turned out to be one of his last moments of anonymity, he was sitting in a corner booth in one of the hotel lounges with his wife Ellen, who used to work at WGBH, less than a mile away.

"Well," he said laconically, "I suppose I'm the Mick of the moment." Material success always puzzled Frank McCourt. He did not go through life courting it. Hell, if he did, he wouldn't have been a teacher. Because while everybody today mourns Frank McCourt the writer, he always thought of himself as Frank McCourt the teacher.
The Guardian
-- generally a sure bet in the obit department -- comes in on a silly note:
Frank McCourt, whose evocative tales of a poverty-stricken Irish childhood enthralled readers around the world and sparked the genre of “misery lit”, has died of cancer in a Manhattan hospice aged 78.
Though there’s much McCourt can be credited with, “misery lit” is not one of those things: if there is such a thing, it’s as old as literature itself. Still, the balance of The Guardian’s coverage does a good job with all the bases and even includes a short excerpt of Angela’s Ashes.

The New York Times, meanwhile, not only offers up a very detailed obituary today, but it also asks readers to contribute their memories of the well-loved author. “Were you a student of Mr. McCourt’s?” the Times asks. “Or a fan of his work? Share your memories of the teacher-turned-Pulitzer Prize-winning author.” At time of this writing, nearly 300 readers had done so. That piece is here.



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