"It wasn’t until he was 66 that Frank McCourt published Angela’s Ashes,
a book that has sold over 4 million copies and has been published worldwide."
...Long live the McCourts.
I do not have nearly as many ambivalent feelings towards Frank and brothers as many of my former colleagues
seemed to have.
I only once set eyes on Frank, who has died aged 78. I saw him at an event at New York University's Ireland House, and I met his equally well-known brother Malachy once during a snow storm on West End Avenue. Malachy was more than civil to me, a total stranger, who shouted "Hello Malachy!" as I trudged past him.
Perhaps the ambivalent feelings I heard were to do with how the McCourts as a tight-knit family handled the late-in-coming success of Frank's Pulitzer Prize winning memoir, Angela's Ashes: after selling many copies, it became a well-attended movie, and the other brothers piggy-backed their own memoirs and cod-Oirish blather off Frank, so I am sure they all "did well
," as the ever-begrudging Irish will say with no smile.
[In fact it's very Irish to be kicking them all, and Frank is hardly cold yet].
So, about their handling of success: the McCourts really did have horrible childhoods, horrible Irish Catholic childhoods as Frank's famous opening sentence went, and I think that when some success finally came their way, they have exercised their right to have the best of revenges on everyone, by living well.
There was always some suggestion that what Frank said about his mother in Angela's Ashes was disputed by people here in New York who said she had been an exemplary person and showed none of the totally dissolute drunken awfulness which he and Malachy alluded to.
But for me the genius of Angela's Ashes
is that Frank and brothers (most, if not all four of them) were born in Brooklyn, not Ireland. As they endured the horribleness of Limerick in the 1930s (these words make me shudder, and I'm only 36) they had their American citizenship as an ultimate trump card... so when the day came, Frank could give the bog a final "fuck-you!
" and head back across the Atlantic... to home. Angela's Ashes
could only ever have a happy ending.
That unusual, humorous, constellation of events -- born in America but return-emigrated in failure to Ireland -- is as clear proof as one needs of the luck of the Irish.