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James McCourt: Lasting City

James McCourt: Lasting City

The Anatomy of Nostalgia. USA/UK 2014, 323 pp., brochure,  15.95
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Enjoined by his dying mother to »tell everything«, James McCourt was liberated by this deathbed wish to do just that. »Lasting City« is an operatic recollection that braids a nostalgic portrait of old-Irish New York with a boy's funny, gutter-snipe precocity and hardly innocent coming-of-age in the 1940s and 1950s. A literary outlaw in the poetic tradition of Verlaine and Baudelaire, McCourt tells his own story, his mother's, his family's, and that of a lost New York, the lasting city. While ostensibly an account of the author's first seven years, »Lasting City« expands into a philosophical exploration of memory, perhaps as daring a statement on perception as a kaleidoscopic unraveling of time. Mating fact with fantasy, or fantasy with fact, McCourt takes us from his deeply moving bedside account of his mother Catherine's death to its traumatic aftermaths both real and imagined. By celebrating our powerlessness over memory, he explores the darkly intense Irish-American family romance and the love-hate relationship between an unusually bright boy and his eternally wise mother, who harbored an excruciating guilty secret.
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