Monday, July 20, 2009

Frank McCourt's death and other depressing news

I can’t decide what is more depressing, Frank McCourt’s death or Lauren Conrad’s ascent to the top of the New York Times Bookseller list.

In case you don’t know, McCourt is the man who wrote Angela’s Ashes. Conrad is the latest product of our culture’s fascination with gorgeous, wealthy but generally shallow people. (Like Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian without the sex tapes.) She is a former star of The Hills, MTV’s proof they can make something stupider than The Real World.

Conrad’s debut text, L.A. Candy, is the story of a girl who becomes famous via reality television. It has topped the children’s chapter book list for four weeks.

In Conrad’s defense, she’s writing what she knows.

I’m not going to use Conrad’s authorial success as an excuse to break open the seventh seal. I haven’t read L.A. Candy (though the reviews I’ve read have been unenthusiastic). It could be really good; or, at least, something that won’t insult the intelligence of her fans. For example, Mick Foley may not be Frank McCourt; but I did enjoy his autobiography.

Maybe Conrad didn’t need a ghostwriter. Maybe her book wasn’t “heavily edited” (which means almost the same thing as ghostwritten). Maybe she really does have some writing chops.

That having been said, it frustrates me that Conrad receives immediate publishing success because of her unearned celebrity. I realize I’m not expressing an original sentiment by knocking reality TV stars, but there’s a reason I’m juxtaposing Conrad and McCourt.

McCourt paid enough dues to buy the union. The man had the toughest of childhoods — a silver-tongued, alcoholic father; a mother forced to beg so she could feed her children; and three siblings who died during their infancy. His family struggled to survive, first, in Brooklyn, then in Limerick, Ireland.

He became a New York City schoolteacher and wrote Ashes. (In case you’re wondering, the titular Angela is his mother.)

I can’t praise Angela’s Ashes for the same reason I can’t condemn L.A. Candy. I’ve never read it. But it won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Critics Circle Award, so McCourt must have done something right.

It’s also my younger brother’s favorite book. I should buy him a copy of Candy and let him compare.

-Jason Lea,

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home