Sunday, January 5, 2014

I miss McCourt...

Sometimes, you come across a book that just explodes in your head, like crazy fireworks on a  July evening.  Such was Angela's Ashes for me. 
 
The Dickensian dimension, the unbearable decrepitude of Irish life in that period!  The father coming home drunk, waking up his children, aligning them by the side of the bed and forcing them to sing along patriotic songs... 
 
How I know all that although I have never been to Ireland and those things  never happened to me.  But... thinking more about it... those exact particular things never happened to me, but similar, tangential, or maybe just barely comparable things DID...and my mind was so hungry to listen to them, so avid to listen to McCourt story because, somehow, in small subtitles, in small metaphors or sometimes as loud as a gun pulverizing human life without scope or justification, his story was also the story of children who lived in poverty - material or spiritual - and in fear.  In an interview   on Academy of Achievement McCourt talks about the Ireland of his childhood:
 
"...in economic circumstances it was desperate. It was Calcutta with rain. At least they're warm in Calcutta. But it was desperate because of certain things, ingredients like my father being an alcoholic, my mother having too many babies in too short a time, no work available in Ireland, and even when my father did get a job he drank the wages. Then there was the harsh kind of schooling we had with school masters who ruled with a stick and then because of the overwhelming presence of the church, which imbued us with fear all the time. So it was fear, dampness, poverty, alcoholism, fear of the church, fear of the school masters, fear in general."  

But also, scarcity made things precious.  This is how you learn the value of a slice of bread...
 
 
 
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