Sunday, October 4, 2009

One Fleury Potato

Among those who died this year was the Irish American writer and raconteur Frank McCourt. McCourt was a type that only appears among the Irish—someone famous for drinking and talking. A quintessential New York Irishman, he taught high school English for thirty years. Then, when he was sixty-five years old he startled the world when he wrote the classic story of his youth, Angela’s Ashes.

In McCourt’s words, “When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.” The story is moving for the heroism of his mother, Angela, and the sheer tenacity of his family in surviving.

Having won the Pulitzer Prize for his amazing first book, McCourt went back to doing what he seemed to do best, talking and drinking (not necessarily in that order). He wrote more books, which were not good. Then died on July 19 of this year.

I wonder what we should think about a man whose life was a failure in many ways, but did this one wonderful thing in writing Angela’s Ashes. What I do know is that I think of him often. Whenever I pick up a potato to peel I think of the watery stew that his whole family had to subsist on and his childhood desire to have, just once, a whole fleury potato to himself.

Even when the potato is starting to go soft and beginning to sprout eyes, I treat it with a certain reverence in honor of Frank McCourt.

1 comment:

  1. his life was a failure, why/how? you have made me want to go get and read this book, He was a teacher for 30yrs... doesnt that equal some amount of success?