Sunday, February 21, 2010

McCourt Rules!

A little bonus for your reading pleasure, this is the 2d through 4th paragraphs of the opening chapter of Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes. Few book openings have been so captivating to me or so clearly set the course of what was to come, with both tragedy and humor evident throughout.

"When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived 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.

People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying schoolmasters; the English and the terrible things they did to us for eight hundred long years.

Above all - we were wet."


  1. I wholeheartedly agree that Frank McCourt rules, as do these establishing paragraphs. When I decided to listen to the audiobook of Angela's Ashes, it was more out of curiosity than actual interest. I figured I'd listen for a bit to get the general idea, then quit and move onto something else. But after I heard Mr. McCourt himself narrate those first few paragraphs, I was hooked. It's great stuff. I'm looking forward to listening to the sequels and plan to also check out the books written by his brothers, Malachy and Alfie.

  2. I recall seeing a story on McCourt, and to a lesser extent his brothers, on CBS's Sunday Morning. They all returned to Limerick to see the old haunts. During the course of that Frank McCourt read those opening paragraphs, too. He could present as well as write, no doubt handy for a teacher.

    I have 'Tis, but don't have the third book he wrote or any of his brothers' writings. Something to keep an eye out.