Frank McCourt died this month. I purposefully waited to announce my grief.
Grief isn’t timely. She conjures up old memories and feelings. Grief causes nostalgia.
On the day I found out he died, I arrived home from work, and walked straight back into my bedroom, to my bookshelf, and found my 12-year-old copy of McCourt’s memoir, “Angela’s Ashes”.
Skipping dinner and changing out of my work clothes, I fell onto my bed, and soaked myself in his story all over again.
How this book came to me? For one of my many middle school book reports, I found Mccourt’s memoir in a best-seller section of a small bookstore. I should mention that I was in love with books as a child. Writing a book report, not to mention going book shopping, was more like a hobby than actual school work.
The way I shopped for books as a prepubescent child is still how I shop for books. It has proven to be the best method.
I walk in, pick up a book and read the first sentence. Then, I flip to the middle of the book and find another sentence. It’s not about whether the action is enthralling. If the voice speaks to me in such a way, I take the book.
For that particular book report, “Angela’s Ashes” called me.
My 12-year-old self read the 460 pages in three days. McCourt’s writing voice had a power over me. Memoirs are now my favorite genre, and if I had to explain it, I’d simply say that the way an author’s mind pours their life memories onto a series of bound pages resonates with me.
Yes, I felt like I knew the man after reading his book.
And yes, the memoir is tragic, elaborating about his impoverished Irish childhood. But from what I understand, he became one of the best teachers in New York.
So, in the end, his character is not tragic.
But I remember my tween self completely encapsulated with his ability to sit through writing a whole book about having and being nothing. Knowing nothing of poverty, I was completely in awe of his ability to endure and share the beauty if it all with me, a simple middle-schooler.
There is a reason his book is still on my bookshelf.
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