In Memory of Frank McCourt

The Irish-American writer and retired teacher Frank McCourt died on 19 July, 2009 at the age of 78.

His first book, Angela's Ashes, published at the age of 66, dealt with his upbringing in an alcoholic household in Limerick, Ireland. It became a best-seller almost immediately and won a Pulitzer.

Mc Court's second memoir, 'Tis, took up the story of his life when he moved to the United States at the age of 19.

In his third book, Teacher Man, he describes his years as a teacher in New York City.

As a teacher, I enjoyed this book even more than the other ones, with its accurate and vivid descriptions of the occupation, often accompanied by irony and a smile between the lines.

A small excerpt from "Teacher Man".

"Somebody should have told me, Hey, Mac, your life, Mac, thirty years of it, Mac, is gonna be school, school, school, kids, kids, kids, papers, papers, read und correct, read and correct, mountains of papers piling up at school, at home, days, nights, reading stories, poems, diaries, suicide notes, diatribes, excuses, plays, essays, even novels - the works of thousands - thousands - of New York teenagers over the years, a few hundred working men and women, and you get no time for reading Graham Greene or Dashiell Hammett, F. Scott Fitzgerald oder old P.G. Wodehouse, or your main man, Mr. Jonathan Swift.

You'll go blind reading Joey and Sandra, Tony and Michelle, little agonies and passions and ecstasies. Mountains of kid stuff, Mac. If they opened your head they'd find a thousand teenagers clambering all over your brain ....."

.."Remember, if this is your world, you're one of them, a teenager. You live in two worlds. You're with them, day in, day out, and you'll never know, Mac, what that does to your mind. June will come, and it's bye-bye, teacher, nice knowin' you, my sister's gonna be in your class in September. But there's something else, Mac. In any classrom, something is always happening. They keep you on your toes. They keep you fresh. You'll never grow old, but the danger is you might have the mind of an adolescent forever. That's a real problem, Mac. You get used to talking to those kids on their level. Then when you go to a bar for a beer, you forget how to talk to your friends and they look at you. They look at you like you just arrived from another planet and they're right".

I know that look, too.

On the video there's a rather humorous talk by Frank McCourt at NYS Writers Institute 2006.

There's an article written by Frank McCourt in 2002, titled: REFLECTIONS ON CREATIVE WRITING CLASS: THE TEACHER; How to confront 30,000 words a week of teenage angst and ecstasy.

Here's an obituary from the New York Times.

Frank McCourt kept his humour till the end. A few weeks before his death he said: "I don't want funeral services or memorials. Let them scatter my ashes over the Shannon and pollute the river."

Thank you, Frank McCourt. You'll be missed.


Lydia said...

I loved the excerpt. It makes me wish I had the phone numbers/email addresses of many of my former teachers so I could express my gratitude. I did try to look up one HS teacher about five years ago, even going so far as to email his alumni groups at the two universities he listed in his bio in our old yearbook. Alas, he's lost to time. Some leave behind three magnificent books...some leave only memories of magnificent teaching.

Hattie said...

My favorite HS teacher is still teaching, now in a community college. He's in his 80's.
Must read McCourt. For some reason I felt that Angela's Ashes would be too heavy for me.

francessa said...

Lydia, if there is at least something behind that is worth remembering it's alright. I have mixed feelings towards my former teachers, and missed the last class reunion but was told that some of them are still living and one or two turned up at the reunion.

Hattie, that's great, teaching at 80!

I thought that (too heavy) at first as well, but then I really enjoyed reading it!

Maybe you'd like to read the short online excerpt first?

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