A secret farewell to Frank McCourt last week drew a surprise guest — President Bill Clinton — who attended the event at the Manhattan Club in New York, sources tell IrishCentral.
A group of close friends — almost all members of the "First Friday Club," a weekly literary get-together which McCourt always attended — gathered to say farewell to Limerick's most-famous son ahead of the official sendoff on Oct. 6 at Symphony Space.
Organizers, who included brother Malachy McCourt and writers Colm McCann and Peter Quinn, were astonished when the former President phoned them to say he was on his way.
Clinton drew howls from the crowd, recalling how McCourt had not liked his own soul-searching memoir "My Life," and that the famous author particularly disagreed with him when Clinton wrote that the British Queen Mother looked wonderful as she aged. "In retrospect ," Clinton said to much laughter, he had to agree with McCourt on that one.
Clinton said eveyone had a story to tell in life, but that McCourt wrote uniquely about his, and had inspired many others to put their own stories down on paper.
The October commemoration is expected to be a very large affair, a testament to how popular the Limerick writer was in his native New York. It is still not known if his ashes have been scattered in the Shanon River as he had stated he wanted done.
The celebrated Irish author died last week in a hospice surrounded by friends and family.
McCourt, who rocketed to fame in 1996 with the publication of "Angela's Ashes," was an unlikely literary superstar.
He was 66 when the book — for which he won the Pulitzer Prize — was published.
The book recounted his early years in Limerick and became an instant hit around the world, although less so in Limerick, where some of the most-harrowing scenes were set.
The book's iconic opening line read, “When I look back on my childhood, I wonder how I managed to survive at all.”
And, as millions of fans around the world would discover; “It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while.”
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