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That thing where

You dip into a book, and the part you read happens to be an iconic part of the story.

... I don't actually know if the part I read is iconic, but I bet it is. I just bet.

The book, which I've never read, is Angela's Ashes. The healing angel has to read it for school and doesn't want to, so I said, We'll read 20 minutes tonight. (That was last night.) Then this afternoon when he got home from school, I quit work for ten minutes to read another little bit. Yesterday the two brothers had to pick up leftover bits of coal from the street to light their Christmas fire, and their bag had a hole in in it, so the coal kept falling out, and then it started to rain. The rain was the icing on the cake of desolation, and we laughed like the heartless creatures we are at the awfulness.

That wasn't the moment that I think was iconic though. It was when the dad tells them that their new baby brother was brought for them by an angel who left the baby on the seventh step. Seventh from the top or the bottom of the stairs, the narrator asks. The top, the dad explains, because angels come down from heaven, not up from someplace as miserable as their flooded kitchen. And later the narrator sits on that stair waiting for the angel and imagining talking to him.

... That was beautiful and I figure it has to be iconic. Just chance that the healing angel (speaking of angels) should pick that section.


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 4th, 2016 09:35 pm (UTC)
I have contemplated reading Angela's Ashes, because I have kind of a thing for Miserable Childhood Memoirs (I'm pretty sure this is an actual genre). But I also have the impression that it might be a little too Miserable: putting coal in a sack with a hole in it and all that.

The passage about the steps does sound beautiful, though.
Jan. 4th, 2016 09:40 pm (UTC)
It's actually fairly entertainingly written--I think ten-minute doses are the right size. Not sure I'd want the whole book...
Jan. 5th, 2016 12:46 am (UTC)
よんであげて、ありがとうございます。とても優しいお母さん...and that's a beautiful story, too.
Jan. 5th, 2016 01:21 am (UTC)
どうかな、優しいかな。。。I wish you could read the part about the angel on the seventh stair. It really was beautiful.
Jan. 5th, 2016 04:09 am (UTC)
The sad picking up of coal from the street by neglected little kids: if you read Angela's Ashes you will encounter many more scenes such as this. I loved it as a teenager, but man oh man, it is shameless misery porn.

There is some relief from the misery: there's a doomed romance straight out of a Dickens novel, there's a dirty comedy with a kid nicknamed Quasimodo Dooley. If you want something non-miserable, read just the scene where the narrator is six and is taken for First Communion. But if you don't read the rest of the book, you're not missing one of the great classics of our time, or anything.

I met Frank McCourt once, at the Norman Rockwell Museum the day after he'd done a reading at Tanglewood. I was a teenager, he was late fifties, neat, small, silver-haired, with a slightly beaky profile and an attractive voice. We were both just walking around looking at art, so I went over and fangirled at him a bit. I gushed about being a fan of his work and he thanked me and asked me the usual nosy-old-person questions about where I was going to go to college and what I intended to do when I grew up.

By the way, I had a hard look at his teeth, because all the descriptions he'd put in the book about people's teeth rotting and turning green and falling out of their heads had frightened me and I was concerned about him, but Frank McCourt had an ordinary set of teeth that looked healthy. Either they were a false set which looked natural, or he'd learned to take care of his teeth in later life.
Jan. 5th, 2016 04:34 am (UTC)
Wow, how very cool that you met him! I didn't realize that the book had been written so long ago but [checks Internet] I see that it's 20 years old this year!

One thing that impressed me was how, although there were very few [at least in the 30-odd pages we read] specially spelled words, when I read the dialogue parts out loud, it felt quite natural to fall into an Irish accent. That's skill, to evoke an accent just in the word choices and how they fall in the sentence.
Jan. 5th, 2016 05:15 am (UTC)
He's good at that! He doesn't need to spell out words phonetically, as a lot of authors would, to get the shape of the accent across.
Jan. 6th, 2016 03:09 pm (UTC)
Just getting to the First Communion part now--it's nice!
Jan. 7th, 2016 04:03 am (UTC)
It's the scene where my mom had to explain the insult "bogtrotter" to me as I'd never heard it before ^_^
Jan. 5th, 2016 02:59 pm (UTC)
I so enjoyed that book. It's been years since I've read it but I do remember the one thing that stuck with me was how much joy (and fun times!) these kids could still find in all that misery. It's a lesson that has stayed with me.
Jan. 5th, 2016 04:01 pm (UTC)
It is something I pray for so fervently: the possibility of moments of joy even in desperate circumstances--not as a way to avoid trying to change the circumstances, but because sometimes they'r unavoidable.
Jan. 5th, 2016 07:52 pm (UTC)
I read the book, but it was many years ago (maybe not as many as that...maybe while living in Mayotte? Can't remember), and I don't remember a whole lot about it. :-/
Jan. 6th, 2016 03:01 pm (UTC)
Some books linger and some books don't. What's sad is how even books you *like* can fade.
Jan. 6th, 2016 03:07 pm (UTC)
Yes, thinking back on books I really, really liked, for some of them I have a hard time recalling main character names, etc. I still have a feel of the book, if you will, but sometimes, not a lot of specifics remain.
Jan. 6th, 2016 10:36 am (UTC)
I have not read the book, but my impression from memories of lightly-read reviews of it is that the coal thing was iconic, or emblematic, for many readers.
Jan. 6th, 2016 03:04 pm (UTC)
Interesting! Someone had mentioned... but now I can't find the comment, so was it elsewhere? Or did they delete it? That the First Communion part was also iconic and not miserable--and we're just getting to that now. Oh wait--I found it! It was in Teenybuffalo's comment.

Edited at 2016-01-06 03:08 pm (UTC)
Jan. 6th, 2016 12:02 pm (UTC)
I love the sound of your reading - 'heartless' laughing and all. :) and I love the angels coming down the stairs, partly because it reminds me of the angels on Bath not-Cathedral ... abbey! it's an abbey! and it has by the front door the most wonderful sixteenth-century depiction in stone of angels climbing down from heaven, and of course starting from the top. :)
Jan. 6th, 2016 03:04 pm (UTC)
Ooh, now I'll have to go look at images of the Bath abbey angels. They sound lovely.
Jan. 6th, 2016 03:13 pm (UTC)
They are stunning! They are climbing up and down ladders, and since earthly gravity or dimensions are utterly irrelevant to angels, the descending ones climb upside-down, head-downwards. It's wonderfully and joyously disorienting to see. :)
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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