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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: July 20, 2009 @ 11:03 am

    Ashes to ashes

    Fiona McCann

    Frank McCourt has died. And whatever you think of his literary output, the fact that he published his first book, the one that went on to win the Pulitzer Prize, when he was 66, has given hope to all of those with novels in their pockets worried that if they haven’t hit the literary big time by 30, they’re toast. For balancing out precocious talents like Jonathan Safran Foer’s, and reminding people that a a literary start can come at any age, I salute McCourt, who’s given me another thirty years to get cracking. In the meantime,  this, from Angela’s Ashes, as the young Frank McCourt receives his First Communion.

    “It stuck. I had God glued to the roof of my mouth. I could hear the master’s voice, Don’t let that host touch your teeth for if you bite God in two you’ll roast in hell for eternity. I tried to get God down with my tongue but the priest hissed at me, Stop that clucking and get back to your seat. God was good. He melted and I swallowed Him and now, at last, I was a member of the True Church, an official sinner.”

    • Daily Spud says:

      That extract puts me in mind of the image of JC himself that overlooked our panel discussion in the Friary on Saturday. Not quite Angela’s Ashes but, still, there was no swearing from Sweary…

    • Fiona says:

      Ha! Too true! No swearing from Sweary, though some foul-mouthedness from other quarters. Less said about that, the better.

    • Sinéad says:

      Late-starter writers like Frank McCourt and Annie Proulx give all aspiring writers hope. The big fear is talking about it and never doing it. http://bit.ly/ZdVQv

    • Bill O'Donnell says:

      Saddened to learn of Frank McCourt’s passing. He will be remembered with respect for his brutally candid portrait of his Limerick upbringing and the truth in his telling about his very human parents and the grinding poverty they shared.
      His critics rebuffed him for cutting too close to the bone, especially on his mother behavior, but how can non-fiction be anything but the truth.

    • Jelly says:

      Must correct the author, Frank was not an “Irish American” he was American. Frank was born in NYC, was an American citizen and spent his entire adulthood in America, America is the place that born him! He is an American of Irish decent, not Irish American, American Irish!

    • Medbh says:

      McCourt has a great line in there when he reflects upon first reading Shakespeare as the words were like pearls in his mouth.

    • Fiona says:

      Sinead: What a great piece – though point taken. Eep.

      Bill: I would contest that the genre “non-fiction” has come up with a few examples a little shy of the truth in its time, but I agree that the roasting Frank McCourt got over his own memoir was risible.

      Jelly: You’re right, he was born in NYC, though I think he identified as Irish given that he’d spent the majority of his childhool there.

      Medbh: Pearls in his mouth. Nice.

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