Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Today's factoid:
You can either read books or have a clean house.
Or you can have neither.
But you certainly cannot have both
unless there are servants and/or a small inheritance.

I just finished blowing through Frank McCourt's trio of memoirs (Angela's Ashes, 'Tis and Teacher Man), and boy is my house a mess. Come to think of it, I'm a little depressed, too. . I must follow the lead of Ernesto and remember that one must get organized if one is to pull out of a tropical depression and become a proper hurricane.

But I digress.

The McCourt books are engaging to say the least. And they're irresistible if you're procrastinating on something distasteful.

His first book reads as if it HAD to be written. The followups feel like they required a certain amount of effort.

But not so much effort that McCourt and his editors were able to remove all the inaccuracies and anachronisms.

On the left inner book jacket for 'Tis it says the charming Irishman with the strange manner of his father returned to the US in 1953. On the right inner book jacket it says the writer with black teeth and two eyes like piss holes in the snow returned in 1949. Well, which is it? And who missed this obvious discrepancy -- and do they still have a job?

I bet it was a man.

Near the beginning of 'Tis, McCourt writes about his first landlady, a Scandinavian who is always bemoaning the loss of her late husband. Apparently he had been ill for some time but it was the TV that killed him. Huh? In 1949? Or was it 53? Hello! Either way, TV sets weren't easily available in America until the mid to late-1950's. But McCourt implies that the man has been dead for awhile. Oops

And then he writes about his early teaching experiences, and how he had his night-school students write about their typical day. One of them, a single mother with two (or was it three?) jobs wrote about exercising to her Jane Fonda tape before going to work... in the late 1960's or 1970's. One can't help but wonder how she got ahold of the tape -- let alone the VCR -- when it hadn't yet been made, since it was released in 1980.*

When one reads Mr. McCourt and comes across these discrepancies she can't help but wonder how much of his truth has been invented, and what his brothers think of his prose, and why he gets the Pulitzer while that BSer with the broken teeth James Frey gets a kick in the arse.

Perhaps because he's so charming.

One can't help but also think that she is way too bogged down in the facts, and that she should toss aside her journalistic training and get to work.

That's what McCourt would tell his creative writing students to do.

Perhaps she could start with the screenplay she and Gridlife are trying not very hard to finish.


Caca - (stumbling over) Hey, what's up.

Maura - We were just talking about how the writing is going.

Caca - Oh! How is your book going, Maura?

Maura - (gesturing her drink towards Caca and Gridlife) Not my writing -- yours.

Gridlife - I was just telling her how I got out the script and worked on it Thursday night.

Caca - Oh. Yeah. (rolling eyes). We're working really, really hard on it.

Maura - What are you working on? What is it?

Gridlife - Mallory Loathes Me

Maura - (without missing a beat) Isn't that the same script you were working on last year?

Caca and Gridlife (nodding sheepishly) - Uh. Yeah.

Maura - Oh.

Caca - Actually, I think we started it TWO years ago.

Maura - So what's taking so long?

Caca - Uh, we're just really, really busy.

Gridlife - I'm going to get another drink. You want anything?

Caca - I'll go with you.


*Ms. Jane Fonda, who is not a procrastinator, is heading up an all-female talk radio network thingy with fellow feminist Gloria Steinem; for more go here.


  1. Gridlife3:38 PM

    A surprisingly accurate recap of the Laborious Day party. As for McCourt, Angela's Ashes came out when he was 66. I can imagine we'll all have trouble remembering certain things from the past at 66. I can't remember where I left my car keys most mornings, and I'm half his age (half his current age, at least). He could be like the guy who claimed to have done prison time and been responsible for a girl's suicide, all of which were eventually questioned and disproved. It does sound like the problems were partially his, partially the fault of whomever worked on the dust jacket. If you liked 99% of what he wrote, why not focus on that and give the old man a pass on the other stuff? By the way, Angela's Ashes and 'Tis came out within 3 years of each other. We've taken that long to rework a screenplay and there are 2 of us. That guy is like a Triathlete of writing compared to me. Now I'm depressed.

  2. Your rendering of the LABOR DAY PARTY SCENE was a hoot!

    Perhaps Mr. McCourt has a wee bit of the alzheimers, previously (a few decades) known as hardening of the arteries?

    Jane Fonda remains a worthless pos.

  3. Watching the video of convicted felon
    George 'Safe Roads' Ryan being driven away from court yesterday (in a Nazi sled no less)(an Audi) reminded me of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry's dad drives off in his new Cadilac after being impeached by the condo board.
    Big Jim Thompson was riding shotgun up front, btw.
    Turns out old sick Ryan was joking around in the men's room after being given his wrist slap sentence.
    John Kass has it covered in his piece today, to wit:
    To call Ryan complicated, and use it to offer him mercy when, even on sentencing day, he refused to apologize for his crimes is an insult. That does more to promote cynicism than the sight of Big Jim Thompson showing up in the hallway outside the courtroom, confident, the former prosecutor and governor smirking, chomping gum.

    Judge Pallmeyer must believe in the potential goodness of all people.

    But she didn't hear Ryan laughing in the washroom after she imposed her light sentence, Ryan joking with his buddy Big Jim.

    "Wonder what [defense lawyer Dan] Webb is going to say to the media," Ryan said, chuckling, spry enough in his allegedly weakened and infirm state that he bent quickly, like a portly gymnast in hard shoes, to see if anyone was hiding in a stall.

    A young reporter who was dressed in a nice suit--and so didn't look like a young reporter but more like an attorney--wanted to use the facilities.

    "Got a ticket?" wisecracked Ryan, smiling, hearty, apparently crushed by the tough sentence he might not ever serve.

    A few minutes earlier, though, he was seeking mercy, speechifying, oozing contrition without ever offering a real apology, just like a politician. He even used his deep George Ryan political voice.

    The people of Illinois, Ryan said, "expected better and I let them down and for that I apologize. My failures will never leave my mind as long as I live. ... I should have been more vigilant."

  4. I would just add the word "good" before "servants" in today's factoid. ;-)