A creatively executed memoir rekindling the epoch of an eccentric native New Yorker.
The “lasting city” in openly gay novelist McCourt’s (Now Voyagers, 2007, etc.) creative chronicle is, of course, Manhattan. The author supplies autobiographical details through vacillating memories, both fond and painful, and weaves them together in an artful tapestry of fever-dreamed conversations, nostalgic poignancy and rich Gotham history. His mother’s death in 2003 seems to be the catalyst here. Awash in grief, McCourt, now in his early 70s, writes of leaving her deathbed to desperately scurry into the city to share his heartache with strangers like an aging Broadway showgirl/diner waitress and an Indian cabbie, who both seemed to restore his faith in humanity. Further recollections detail McCourt’s troublesome Irish-Catholic family and upbringing, which commingle beautifully with memories of his precocious adolescence as a burgeoning homosexual in the 1950s. Undeterred by the era’s often violent consequences for indulging in same-sex carnalities, the author reveled in clandestine trysts on Fire Island or wandered Central Park’s Ramble, “by night the haunt of the sexually intrepid male homosexual horndog on the scent.” McCourt’s drifting, serpentine narrative unfurls a lush and prideful profile, painstakingly contemplated and clearly written from the heart. The writer tells the stories of his gay youth, his family’s melodrama and his own sweet maturation with an intoxicating amalgam of poetry, quotation, fantasy, and the kind of sweeping, colorful language that creates a kaleidoscope of precious memories. In the opening chapter, his outspoken mother, mere weeks before succumbing to the stroke that would cause her death, urges her son to “tell everything.” From that instruction springs forth McCourt’s shimmering opus of a unique, regretless and effervescent lifetime in the existential city of dreams.
Vibrantly, blissfully sublime.