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Frank McCourt, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Angela's Ashes," died Sunday at the age of 78. Roger Rosenblatt speaks with Margaret Warner about the author's influence on the literary world.
And finally tonight, remembering author Frank McCourt. He was profiled and interviewed on the NewsHour when he rose to fame in the 1990s. Margaret Warner has our appreciation.
"Angela's Ashes," Frank McCourt's memoir of growing up poor in Ireland, became a publishing phenomenon. It hit the best-seller list in 1996 and remained there for 115 weeks. The book sold more than 5 million copies worldwide and made McCourt, a retired New York City schoolteacher, a wealthy man.
"Angela's Ashes" chronicled with wit and compassion what McCourt called his "miserable Irish Catholic childhood," abandoned by an alcoholic father, losing three siblings to disease and malnutrition, and stealing to support his mother and remaining brothers.
Our Elizabeth Farnsworth spoke with McCourt when his book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1997. She asked him to read an excerpt.
"I think my father is like the Holy Trinity with three people in him: the one in the morning with the paper, 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 must have been very angry for quite a while after this experience, losing so many members of your family, you being humiliated over and over again. Were you angry?
Well, when I arrived in America at 19, I was a time bomb, and I continued like that for a long time. I couldn't engage in any civilized discussion of anything because, if anybody opposed me, I would simply erupt. And I was always getting into trouble over this.
It took me years — I think it was in the classroom as a high school teacher — I finally became a civilized human being that had to listen to other points of view and present mine in a reasonable way.
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