Burlington Book Festival Director (and my fellow movie critic) Rick Kisonak announced today that Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes and 'Tis, will be the big name at the fifth annual fest this September 25-27.
I confess I've never read this guy's work (three memoirs concerning his harsh childhood in Ireland, his emigration to the U.S. and his work as a teacher). But I was working at the South Burlington Barnes & Noble when Angela's Ashes became the hot read, thanks to Oprah and her then-nascent book club. Not an hour passed without a customer requesting McCourt's book. In fact, it may have kicked off the whole trend of hardship memoirs that took a dive more recently with the James Frey scandal.
This past spring, McCourt's brother Malachy McCourt came to Burlington to play a lead role in Vermont Stage Company's production of Prelude to a Kiss, but he broke his leg — literally! — and director Mark Nash took over the role.
But it seems a Burlington-McCourt connection was made. Still, I'm concerned about this Belfast Telegraph report from yesterday, which claims (based on an unidentified "friend") that 78-year-old McCourt, who's been undergoing treatment for melanoma, doesn't have long to live. Malachy McCourt has maintained in news reports that his brother is a "hearty fellow" who's fighting the cancer. Let's hope that's the case, and send best wishes McCourt's way.
THURSDAY 7/16 UPDATE:
Rick informs me the AP is now reporting that Malachy McCourt confirms his brother is in a New York hospice, and "his faculties [are] shutting down." McCourt was reportedly active and recovering from his cancer until recently, when he contracted meningitis. It's a sad day for his fans around here... and anyone who loves literature. Again, best wishes to McCourt's family... and to the BBF.
MONDAY 7/20 UPDATE:
More sad news. The New York Times reports that McCourt passed away yesterday.
(Scribner photo by Gasper Tringale)