Michael Patrick MacDonald, the author of All Souls and Easter Rising, spoke to a captivated audience that filled the newly renovated Rabb Hall at the Central Library in Copley Square last night. MacDonald spent the hour reading from his debut novel All Souls and exploring his emotional journey and experience in South Boston during the 1980s and 1990s. A slideshow of his family and the South Boston Old Colony Housing Project where he grew up played in the background, giving a quiet but powerful context to the memories MacDonald related.
The first reading included an ode to the time MacDonald spent at the Boston Public Library during his high school years. He described the library as his shelter and safe haven. He spent so much time at the library, he added, that he eventually got a job shelving books—an anecdote that garnered applause from the audience. Fond memories of the library segued into his relationship with the world of punk rock. MacDonald’s story of stalking the band Sex Pistols, who were staying at the Central Library’s neighbor the Lenox Hotel, illustrated his sense of living in two worlds: South Boston and the punk rock scene, which allowed him to escape the harsh realities of Southie life.
MacDonald also explored the tragedies that took the lives of four of his eleven siblings and informed the writing of All Souls. His grief over these losses manifested as physical ailments. After going to see doctors all over the city, MacDonald finally was recommended to a therapist, an experience that made him realize that what happened to his family and his circumstances in Southie were not “normal.” Even more importantly, it helped MacDonald acknowledge the tragic events in his life.
The night concluded with numerous questions from the audience. MacDonald talked about his community organizing and the importance of that work as a way for him to transform his pain into good. MacDonald’s new book, with the working title The Echoes, focuses on the heroin epidemic in South Boston and Charlestown in the 90s and is slated for release in 2017.
This talk is part of the Boston Public Library’s Lowell Lecture Series and is generously sponsored by the Lowell Institute, established in 1836 with the specific mission of making great ideas accessible to all people, free of charge.