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The Jaundiced Eye

Even More Memoirs From More McCourts

May 23, 1999|Jay Jennings | CONCORD, N.H

'Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood," writes Frank McCourt in his bestselling memoir "Angela's Ashes," out in paperback this month. Apparently, misery loves company: Frank's brother, Malachy, published his own bestselling memoir, "A Monk Swimming," and, in addition to their off-Broadway play, both brothers have more installments in the works. Malachy's son, Conor, has directed two documentary films about his family.

But that's not all. Look for these sure-to-be best-selling memoirs in the McCourt section of your favorite bookstore:

"Oy Vey, Maria"

By Shlomo McCourt

This memoir by a cousin of the McCourts tells how the author's parents Jay Jennings has written for the New York Times and Vogue.

traveled from the slums of Limerick, Ireland, to America but got in the wrong line at Ellis Island and ended up in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn among the Hasidim. "Worse than the miserable Irish Catholic childhood," he writes, "is the miserable Irish Catholic Kosher childhood."

"Cream in My Black Irish Coffee"

By M.C. Court

A distant relative of the McCourt brothers, the Brooklyn-based rapper who goes by the name of M.C. Court (his real name is Biggie Dog Flava-fu) explores his Irish heritage in this combination book and CD. A visit to his ancestors in Limerick is an eye-opening cultural experience ("Worse even than the miserable Irish Catholic childhood," he writes, "is 'Riverdance' "), and he credits the trip with changing his raps, which are now composed entirely of limericks, as in his song "Guinness Tastes Like (deleted)":

There once was a man who (deleted)

Whose (deleted) was so long, he (deleted)

(Deleted delete)

(Deleted delete)

And now he's (deleted) (deleted).

"Under the Limerick Sun"

By Frances McCourt

The author, Brooklyn-raised like her nephews, trades her time-share on Hilton Head for one in Limerick, which, she is told, is in the heart of the Tuscan wine country. Imagine her surprise when she finds that the "villa" she has rented for two weeks is a tumbledown row house in the slums of Limerick. Nonetheless, with admirable fortitude, she sets about fixing up the place (which she cheerfully christens "Little Wapping Mistake") and engages in witty repartee with the eccentric locals, as in this exchange with a yeoman at the fresh-air market: "Do you have any fresh pomegranates? I'm making a delightful soup." "Shut your gob, you bleedin' Yank!" Recipes included.

"Shoutin' at the Liar's Club"

By Mary Bragg McCourt

This branch of the McCourt family settled in the South but didn't fare any better than the other McCourts. "Worse than the miserable Irish Catholic childhood is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood with grits," the author writes. This tale is as much a memoir of the author's mother, Luann McCourt, as it is of the author herself. Luann is a hard-drinkin', hard-driven', chain-smokin', husband-beatin' trucker in lime-green stretch pants, whose life is a series of no-good men and worse luck. In the book's most poignant section, the author recounts her mother's struggle to overcome her lifelong battle with gerundism, a disorder that causes the sufferer to drop the final "g" from the ends of words.

"Memoirs of an Irish Geisha"

By Fiona "Kiko" McCourt

While other McCourts left for America, Fiona McCourt remained behind to become Limerick's most famous geisha. McCourt takes the reader inside the secretive world of her Irish geisha house, above a pub called the Shamrock and Samurai. She describes in detail the intricacies of the "cuppa" ceremony and recalls her encounters with Ireland's greatest literary figures, such as Joyce, Synge and Mishima.

"Am I Anybody?"

By Nora O'Casey

O'Casey wrestles with the most troublesome question of Irish identity in our time: Can you be an Irish memoir writer and not be a McCourt?*

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