Memoir

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

This doesn’t count as me having finished another book, as this was at least my fourth time reading it (if not more). Some might wonder why I read and reread depressing memoirs like Angela’s Ashes. (1) It reminds me that others have it much worse, (2) it shows the strength and resiliency of the human spirit, and (3) it’s a masterfully written book. Stark and unsugarcoated, but not self-pitying, Mr. McCourt tells it like it was, matter-of-fact and with a sense of humor, through the innocence of a child. This book will always have a special place in my heart for introducing me at an early age to my love of memoir and biography, but deservedly so because its poignant portrayal of love, hardship, endurance, and shame.


Some passages that caught my attention this time around:

I think my father is like the Holy Trinity with three people in him, the one in the morning with the paper, the one at night with the stories and the prayers, and then the one who does the bad thing and comes home with the smell of whiskey and wants us to die for Ireland. I feel sad over the bad thing but I can’t back away from him because the one in the morning is my real father and if I were in America I could say, I love you, Dad, the way they do in the films, but you can’t say that in Limerick for fear you might be laughed at. You’re allowed to say you love God and babies and horses that win but anything else is a softness in the head (McCourt, 210).


Ah, pension my arse. Sixteen years of age an’ talking about the pension. Is it coddin’ me you are? Do you hear what I said, Frankie? Pension my arse. If you pass the exam you’ll stay in the post office nice and secure the rest of your life. You’ll marry a Brigid and have five little Catholics and grow little roses in your garden. You’ll be dead in your head before you’re thirty and dried in your ballocks the year before. Make up your own bloody mind and to hell with the safeshots and the begrudgers. Do you hear me, Frankie McCourt?…’Tis your life, make your own decisions and to hell with the begrudgers, Frankie. In the heel o’ the hunt you’ll be going to America anyway, won’t you? (McCourt, 334)

Life Itself by Roger Ebert

I read this back in July 2015 while in Spain with friends, celebrating our recent graduation from college. I’ve decided not to pad my blog with musings written in my personal journal because that’s making things quite messy, timeline-wise, but this was such a fun read for someone obsessed with movies–as one of the most prominent film critics in history, Roger Ebert’s memoirs is chockfull of anecdotes involving Hollywood’s biggest names–that I just had to include it. Here are two quotes that I noted down, either for the sake of humor or wisdom.

(1) “Roger, when I need to amuse myself, I stroll down the sidewalk reflecting that every person I pass thought they looked just great when they walked out of their house that morning” (Gene Siskel, 330).
(2) “The lesson Studs [Terkel] taught me is that your life is over when you stop living it. If you can truly ‘retire,’ you only had a job, but not an occupation” (398).