Friday, July 17, 2009

In tears now.

Angela's Ashes Author Frank McCourt Said to Be Near Death

Frank McCourt, the Brooklyn-born, Ireland-raised author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1996 memoir Angela's Ashes, is in a hospice, his brother Malachy McCourt said Thursday.

Frank McCourt, 78, who recently battled melanoma and contracted meningitis about two weeks ago, "is not expected to live," his younger (by one year) brother told Reuters. The author is in a New York hospice, "his faculties shutting down," according to his sibling.

I won't lie, I am crying now.

I barely knew who he was when he came to speak at Brooklyn College when I was a student there, only that he'd written a memoir called "Angela's Ashes." I can't remember exactly why I went to see him speak -- I think at the time I was already sort of interested in ordinary people's lives as history, childhood experiences from the 1930s, all that. Plus I think my professor was a fan, and she'd done some work regarding children in literature. Anyway, the entire room was filled when I got there, and I had to stand at the side with other latecomers because there were no seats left. But when I saw Frank McCourt, with his white hair and bright, smiling eyes...and when I heard him, his gentle Irish accent lilting and musical...I could have stood there for hours just to listen to him tell his stories. He told anecdotes about growing up in Ireland, which were hilarious and poignant, and read some passages from his book. I thought his writing was magical. He talked about having been a high school teacher in Brooklyn and New York, and I remember feeling jealous that I hadn't been his student. At the beginning I didn't know who he was, but it didn't take very long for me to wish I'd known him all my life. Unfortunately, I had another class and had to leave before the session ended, so I didn't get to meet him and thank him. He'd gained a new fan that day.

Over the years he's done book signings and speakings all over the place, often at local B&Ns, and I'd always meant to go. Now that his final days are suddenly here, I can't even express how incredibly sad it is that he can't share his gifts anymore.

ETA: article with a slew of comments that are just making my heart ache.

Stuyvestant High was pretty much my high school's (Midwood) rival, which is why I had a sort of envy for not having that connection. Look at him!

Friday, July 3, 2009