Every family has heirlooms and stories that are passed along through the generations as an oral tradition. It is not unusual for these stories to get embellished over time. The history of family characters and events is fluid. Stories change after being retold many times. Some are total fabrications. Others are deliberately hushed, stories of people and events that families are not proud of, black sheep that must be hidden. Heirlooms are kept but not always preserved.
The story of the author’s great-grandparents, Oscar and Maggie McMurray, is typical. The author discovers heirlooms and old books that contain clues to the truth about the McMurray’s. As he researches his family history, the stories his mother told him begin to unravel. Who were Oscar and Maggie? How did their story get lost? Why was it changed? What is the truth about this, or any other family story?
The darkly intense Irish-American family drama come alive like never before in this "virtuosic meta-memoir" (Publishers Weekly, starred review).“The blood-red of Manhattan, the brilliant green of an Irish-American wake, the blue-rinsed divas of the opera and the bathhouse alike” (Michael Gorra) are hypnotically rendered in this “astoundingly smart book” (John Waters). With some of the most lyrical cadences in recent literature, the legendary James McCourt animates twentieth-century New York through a “kaleidoscope of sharp-edged, brilliantly colored memories” (J. D. McClatchy) and with “dynamic prose and high-brow erudition that has gone the way of the dodo” (Publishers Weekly). Braiding a nostalgic portrait of the eternal city with a boy’s funny, guttersnipe precocity and outrageous coming-of-age in the 1940s and 1950s, McCourt revisits the fantasy city of his youth with Proustian memories of steam calliopes in Central Park, Hiroshima “obliterated in a flash of light,” and closing his mother’s eyes for the last time. As sensational as it is satisfying, Lasting City, a profoundly American work, identifies the spot where genius and madness meet.