March 12, 2004
McCourt memoir

I see that Frank McCourt is dipping into the memoir well once again.

Frank McCourt thought writing a novel would be a liberating experience, but the award-winning author said on Thursday he has abandoned that project in favor of something more familiar -- another memoir.

McCourt, whose 1996 memoir "Angela's Ashes" sold millions of copies and won a Pulitzer Prize, said he was uncomfortable writing fiction and will write about his own experiences in "Teacher Man," which he hopes to complete by November.

"I tried it but it didn't work," McCourt told Reuters in an interview when asked about his planned foray into fiction.

"Reality kept intruding. So it's back to the memoir."

The novel -- intended for Simon & Schuster imprint Scribner -- was going to be based on his 30-year career as a high school teacher in New York.

"I wanted to write a novel because it would give me greater scope to deal with various situations and people," he said, with a trace of disappointment.

"The memoir limits you, because you are dealing with people still alive, so you have to tread cautiously. It's mostly about my experiences in the classroom."

McCourt, 73, who took up writing after his teaching career, said reliving his time in the classroom had proved rewarding.

"I think it's the story of what I learned as a teacher," he said. "While teaching I was discovering myself. If you can have even a bit of that experience you're lucky in this life. It's better than therapy."

He took the title for his new work from his old students.

"'Teacher Man,' that's what the kids used to call me," he said. "A lot of Hispanic kids would call you 'Teacher', or 'Teacher Man', or 'Yo!"' he said with a laugh.

McCourt taught in four different city high schools, starting at McKee Vocational in Staten Island and eventually settling into the academically elite Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, where he taught for 18 years.

I thought "Tis" touched on his teaching experiences, but I guess it left off there. As a Stuy alum and former student of Mr. McCourt's, I'll be very interested to see what names and incidents I might recognize. In particular, I'd love to know what he thought of either of our stuffed-shirt principals. (William? Julia? Anything you'd like to see in this book?)

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 12, 2004 to Books | TrackBack


If you see someone who reminds you of me, you should know that in real life Im a short, hardworking guy named Harold.

A few of my friends had him too, and have moved on to rule the world (as we were supposed to) Id like to see if they show up.

The faint sour smell of Guiness at 8:50 also springs to mind...

Posted by: julia on March 12, 2004 5:34 PM

Frank McCourt is a touchy subject for me, since he and I did not leave company on very pleasant terms (folks, I had a reputation for being hell on wheels towards my teachers back in the day, however, this was particularly nasty.) If he takes the same honest tone that he did with his first two books (While I haven't read either book or seen the movie, my younger brother and two of my aunts did, however, they did not know who he was), then I might just pick this one up.

Posted by: William Hughes on March 12, 2004 5:50 PM

do keep in mind that Ive heard the same stories that appeared in Angelas Ashes in class, and some of the details have been changed, so I get the impression that it turned out to be a hair impressionistic.

I have to say, I really loved A Monk Swimming. Talk about relentless.

Posted by: julia on March 12, 2004 6:52 PM