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)