The first memoir I ever read was Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes. It caught my ear as I was waiting in the car while my husband popped into an auto parts store. We were parked at the intersection of Route 412 and Butterfield Coach Road in Springdale, Arkansas and the auto parts surely had something to do with flat tires. I changed many a flat on our chert-laden Washboard Hill.
But given my love of wild places, it was a no-brainer that we were raising our children in a cottage located down four miles of dirt road and across two creeks (and no bridges) on a lake in Arkansas.
It was ten miles by road to the closest school bus stop. Or a mile by canoe to the closest bus stop as the crow flies. This option was down in Hogscald Hollow, as soon as they were old enough to paddle alone—at ten and twelve.
But back to Angela’s Ashes. It was a beautiful sunny day and on that day, October 6, 1996, NPR was interviewing Frank McCourt—another late-blooming memoir writer. I think what impressed me the most was the way he laughed and chuckled as he spoke about some of the most dreadful events of his childhood.
He couldn’t do anything about it. He was a kid in Ireland, living in The Lanes.
If ever there was a personification of perseverance, I suppose the late Mr. McCourt must surely be on the list. This was a man with grit and joy.
To hear it from the man himself and his lovely accent, listen to the 1996 NPR interview with Frank McCourt below. He wrote Angela’s Ashes at 66.
R.I.P. Frank McCourt.