Frank McConnell, RIP

It was with shock and great sadness that we learned last month of the sudden death of Frank McConnell, Commonweal’s long-time media critic, frequent book reviewer, and all-purpose West Coast (a place he had only ambivalent feelings about) representative. He was only fifty-seven and had recently suffered from the effects of a fall. Frank taught English literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and lived in Lompoc, some miles up the coast, a place he proudly called a backwater. But he was originally from Kentucky, migrated to the University of Notre Dame, and did his graduate work at Yale. After a stint teaching at Northwestern, he liked to think of himself as a Chicagoan. He appears to have been a popular teacher; he was certainly popular with me. Frank wore his considerable learning lightly, and like a certain kind of Irishman, he never phoned unless he had a new joke to tell, and he had a thousand. There was the one about the ten-inch man in the bar...but I won’t repeat it; at least not here.

I spoke with Frank on the phone hundreds of times, but I never met him. We had tried to arrange a meeting last fall during a trip he made to New York, but our schedules just wouldn’t allow it. Much to our mutual amusement, he was delivering a paper on Frank Sinatra at an "academic" conference at Hofstra University on Long Island. Among his other passions, as Commonweal readers know, were jazz,...

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About the Author

Paul Baumann is the editor of Commonweal.