Pulitzer prize winning author Frank McCourt, who frequently cited his own life as proof that F. Scott Fitzgerald was wrong when he wrote that there are no second acts in American lives, died Sunday in New York City of metastatic melanoma. He was 78. You can read The News obituary of his life here.
McCourt, perhaps the pre-eminent Irish storyteller of our era, was legendary in certain New York literary and drinking circles as a highly unorthodox high school English teacher and world class talker long before fellow writers Pete Hamill and Jimmy Breslin persuaded him that memoir--not fiction--was the best form for the stories of his miserable childhood in Limerick, Ireland in the 1930's and 40's. He made his literary debut at age 66 with Angela's Ashes (1996), a rueful, grim, and sometimes absurdist account of his life from age 4--when his parents, discouraged by their poverty in Depression-era New York, made the fateful choice to emigrate back to Limerick, Ireland where even greater deprivations, sickness, and family tragedies awaited them--until age 19, when he was serendipitously able to return to New York.
"When I look back on my childhood, I wonder how I survived at all," McCourt famously wrote on the first page of the memoir. "It was, of course, a miserable childhood: The happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.
"People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying schoolmasters; the English and all the terrible things they did to us for 800 long years..."
Continue reading "Frank McCourt: Improbable life, remarkable memoirs" »
Joe Wiens rocked the MusicalFare Theatre stage once again Friday night as the "dork"-looking (Wiens' words) rocker Buddy Holly who changed rock 'n' roll music forever.
The musical, which started its second run at MusicalFare on July 8, has been so popular that the independent theater company tacked on an extra five shows through Aug. 1.
Wiens' childish grin and passion for music came through as authentic as the Converse All-Star hightops on the feet of the Crickets, Holly's original Lubbock, Texas-based band. From the band's creation and wild, rapid success to the infighting that plagued the relationship between Holly and his band to the tragic plane crash that killed Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens on Feb. 3, 1959, Wiens is Holly.
Continue reading "'Buddy' returns to MusicalFare stage" »
Protesters from Buffalo's Polish community demonstrate outside a June 20 production of David Ives' "Polish Joke," a production by Kaleidoscope Theatre Productions held in Canisius College's Marie Maday Theatre. Photo by Sharon Cantillon / The Buffalo News.
Buffalo's Theatre Alliance, with newly elected president Vincent O'Neill at the helm, has issued a statement of support for Kaleidoscope Theatre Productions, the company that was kicked out of its home at Canisius College over protests from a small but active group of offended citizens. (For some background, see my review of the production, my subsequent column, another columnby Donn Esmonde and these letters to the editor.)
The statement follows:
The Theatre Alliance of Buffalo (TAB), and its members, believe in and are fully committed to open and complete self-expression through their work and that of the playwrights they produce without external censorship. We further believe that any censorship that occurs without intense and in-depth examination of any work, both in the original script and staging of same, is conducive to shallow and reactionary responses. Without prior and reasonable discussion, the potential to unnecessarily inflame emotions is created, which leads to an atmosphere that is hostile to artistic freedom.
Continue reading "Theatre Alliance issues statement on 'Polish Joke'" »
A collection of posters designed by Hero Design Studio on the wall of its boutique in Allentown. Photo by Bill Wippert / The Buffalo News.
Hero Design Studio, known mostly for its innovative poster designs for rock concerts, showed up in last month's issue of Spin magazine. See an image of the feature after the jump or here.
Continue reading "Hero Design Studio featured in Spin" »
Ani DiFranco performs at Artpark Monday night. Photo by Bill Wippert / The Buffalo News.
"It's kind of sad -- there's not much art at Artpark these days."
--Ani DiFranco, halfway through her very subdued set at Artpark Monday night.
A couple poses for wedding pictures in front the exposed guts of Memorial Auditorium in early June. Photo by Colin Dabkowski.
I was riding my bike yesterday, as I often do, past the craggy remains of Buffalo's Memorial Auditorium on my way to work. No sooner had I locked up my ride to the rack outside The News than I heard a thundering crash, and looked up just quickly enough to catch the cloud of dust and dirt that signified the final, official demise of the storied edifice on Buffalo's burgeoning waterfront.
At certain points during the demolition, the Aud looked a lot like a target of the war it was built to memorialize. But yesterday, the long project, the messy evisceration that seemed to drag on for moths (because it actually dragged on for more than a year), the painful vision of crumbling concrete and fractured steel, had finally reached its protracted end.
Continue reading "Aud demise whetted appetite for destruction" »
A hearty "Bravo!" to Jay Louis Dref, who sang his heart out Wednesday night at the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's free concert in Delaware Park. Dref, pictured above, soared through two arias, including the famous "Largo" from Handel's "Xerxes."
Here is the great tenor Jussi Bjoerling singing that Largo in case you cannot immediately call it to mind. Such beautiful music for a summer night!
Dref sounded a little nervous at first, but who would not be, faced with such a big crowd. The BPO's parks concerts traditionally feature budding musicians, young up-and-comers who are pursuing musical careers. They are a kind of baptism by fire. Dref, who studies at the Eastman School, will be giving one more free performance this summer with the orchestra -- on the lawn of UB's South Campus, near Allen Hall, at 6 p.m. July 21.
Continue reading "Living Largo" »
Can today's digital technology help illuminate a breakthrough in communications technology that occured nearly 1700 years ago? That question was answered earlier this week when it was announced that a project involving four international libraries had digitized and reassembled over 800 pages of the text of the Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest known copy of the Bible in all of Christendom and one of the most substantial books of any kind to survive antiquity. On Monday, the recombined text became available to scholars, historians, and the general public for enhanced viewing online. You can learn more about the project and examine the actual text here.
The Codex, which represents one of the earliest uses of a bound manuscript consisting of a quire of parchment pages -- the thing we would today recognize as a "book" (as opposed to the scroll or wax tablets of antiquity) -- is thought to be the more reliable of the only two surviving transcriptions of the Greek Bible commissioned from Eusebius of Caesarea by Roman Emperor Constantine after his conversion to Christianity around the year 325 of the Common Era. (The other surviving copy is the Codex Vaticanus housed in the Vatican Library in Rome.)
The work of four unknown scribes (you can actually see their fingerprints on the text), it was handwritten in Koine (early) Greek uncial letters on vellum parchment made from the skins of donkeys or antelopes. Its heavily corrected text -- over 14,800 corrections, annotations or other markings dating from the 4th to the 12th century -- make it of singular importance to Bible scholarship and the history of the Bible, while the manuscript construction makes it a key artifact in the history of the book. The Codex Vaticanus, by way of comparison, is relatively unmarked.
Continue reading "Codex Sinaiticus sheds light on history of the book" »
The widespread grief surrounding the death of Michael Jackson has a dimension of shock about it. Sure, he died suddenly. But his fans behave as if they never expected to lose him, ever.
In The News' PopStand blog yesterday, Lauri Githens Hatch adopted a kind of desperation when she observed that more "gut-socking" losses were ahead: Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, and many more.
Continue reading "Michael Jackson and Beethoven" »