The Politics of Memoir and the Making of Memoir Madness

Jennifer Semple and Jeffrey Brown
April 1970

While my ex-husband Jeff might feel uncomfortable with my treatment of him, my memoir isn’t about our life together but our life apart at a time when we wanted to be together.
~ Jennifer Semple Siegel
When Frank McCourt published his poignant coming-of-age memoir Angela’s Ashes, he did not set out to enrage readers and the people he portrayed. Certainly, a cursory check on Amazon for book reviews, one would be hard-pressed to find too many negative reviews for this Pulitzer prize-winning masterpiece. However, in Ireland, specifically Limerick, controversy regarding the veracity of the book continues. On Limerick (Now a revamped Limerick Leader, whose online articles begin in 2006), journalist Kevin Cullen describes an incident at a local book signing:
In July [1997], when [McCourt] did a book-signing at O’Mahony’s, a Limerick bookstore he got thrown out of as a child, one of his contemporaries, Paddy Malone, stood before him and denounced him while tearing up a paperback copy of the book. Malone was a classmate of McCourt’s at Leamy School, which McCourt portrayed as a place where most teachers delighted in humiliating the students, especially those who came from the lanes, the slums that housed the poorest of Limerick. (Note: The Telegraph covers some of this controversy in Frank McCourt’s 20 July 2009 obituary, albeit without this direct quote.)
Cullen notes that Malone’s complaint may have more to do with money than truth. Malone claimed that McCourt had purloined a schoolboy photo that Malone owned and used it for his book cover without permission, and, subsequently, McCourt’s old school pal has hired a lawyer. This legal battle continued, at least through 1999.
For Memoir and Journaling Tips, Read Here.
(Both links jump to Why I Write, the author’s homepage)


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