Frank McCourt is one of my favorite writers. On my desk at work I keep a little Saint Francis statue in Frank’s honor. The childhood memoir I’m currently working on is modeled after Angela’s Ashes. I like how he doesn’t try to intellectualize about his relationship with his father. I like how he isn’t afraid to let the story speak for itself. He never pontificates beyond the glib message that the miserable Irish Catholic childhood is possibly the worst of all childhoods. And then he goes on to show you that this may very well be an understatement. You have to appreciate a story teller so talented.
But Frank McCourt is no performer.
I went to see him on a rainy night last week at Benaroya Hall. He was there to promote his latest memoir, Teacher Man. He mostly read from his three published memoirs. He may have been drunk; he occasionally slurred his words. This went on for an hour. When he was finished, he took questions for ten minutes. These ten minutes were the most interesting part of the evening. When asked what he thought of the limited success of the movie version of his book, Angela’s Ashes, he offered this prescient comment: the producers focused too much on the melancholy of the story, and didn’t spend enough time on the eccentricities of the poor. I haven’t even seen the movie, but I love his ability to go beyond mere circumstance in a story and see something larger. This is why Frank McCourt is one of my favorite writers.
But I’ll never spend $25 to go hear him talk again.