Frank McCourt arrived in New York as a young, impoverished and idealistic Irish boy – but who crucially had an American passport, having been born in Brooklyn. He didn’t know what he wanted except to stop being hungry and to better himself. On the subway he watched students carrying books. He saw how they read and underlined and wrote things in the margin and he liked the look of this very much. He joined the New York Public Library and every night when he came back from his hotel work he would sit up reading the great novels.
Building his confidence and his determination, he talked his way into NYU and gained a literature degree and so began a teaching career that was to last 30 years, working in New York’s public high schools. Frank estimates that he probably taught 12,000 children during this time and it is on this relationship between teacher and student that he reflects in ‘Teacher Man’, the third in his series of memoirs.
The New York high school is a restless, noisy and unpredictable place and Frank believes that it was his attempts to control and cajole these thousands of children into learning and achieving something for themselves that turned him into a writer. At least once a day someone would put up their hand and shout ‘Mr. McCourt, Mr. McCourt, tell us about Ireland, tell us about how poor you were…’ Through sharing his own life with these kids he learnt the power of narrative storytelling, and out of the invaluable experience of holding 12,000 people’s attention came ‘Angela’s Ashes’.
Frank McCourt was a legend in such schools as Stuyvesant high school – long before he became the figure he is now he would receive letters from former students telling him how much his teaching influenced and inspired them – and now in ‘Teacher Man’ he will share his reminiscences of those 30 years as well as revealing how they led to his own success with ‘Angela’s Ashes’ and ‘’Tis’.
Reviews of Teacher Man
Praise for “Angela’s Ashes”:
‘An astonishing book…completely mesmerising – you can open it almost at random and find writing to make you gasp.’ Independent
‘The most remarkable thing about Frank McCourt, apart from his survival, is his lack of sorrowfulness. “Angela’s Ashes” sings with irreverent Limerick wit. It makes you smile at the triumph of the storyteller.’ The Times
‘Writing in prose that’s pictorial and tactile, lyrical but streetwise, Mr McCourt does for the town of Limerick what the young Joyce did for Dublin.’ New York Times
Praise for ‘’Tis’:
‘“’Tis” is a work of great charm and power, perhaps even more so than its predecessor.’ Mail on Sunday
‘Few will be able to resist this pacey and fluent sequel.’ Guardian