Monday, July 20, 2009

McCourt Passes Away

The world lost one extraordinarily gifted and generous soul yesterday.

R.I.P Frank McCourt who passed away, aged 78 in a hospice. He had contracted meningitis, following skin cancer treatment.

McCourt's first book, the brilliant autobiography Angela's Ashes, detailed a miserable childhood growing up impoverished in Ireland and was published when the author was 67. It won him a Pulitzer Prize.

McCourt taught English for much of his life and Eric Konigsberg at The New York Times pays tribute to McCourt the storytelling teacher. (My review of his book Teacher Man is here. )

In The Baltimore Times Paul Golub, now the editorial director of Times Books at New York publisher Henry Holt & Co., recalls his experience of taking McCourt's creative writing course at Stuyvesant in 1979 :
The class was always hilarious and one exercise I remember was McCourt asking us to write about what we had for dinner last night ... He wasn't interested in the typical vague writing but understood that everything was details, details, details -- who bought the chicken, who cooked it, how it was cooked. He would make us read Mimi Sheraton's restaurant reviews in The New York Times so that we could conceive of the idea of writing descriptively about food. It was in Mr. McCourt's class that I first heard that mashed potatoes could be 'satiny.' Before I took Mr. McCourt's class, my writing was very labored. But after he was done with me my writing was fluid and less self-conscious. He liberated me to become myself.
Will append more tributes as they appear in the papers.


May Zhee said...

Oh my God :(

Frank McCourt was not just a great writer, he was indeed a great storyteller. People who have heard him speak, reading selected passages from his book, have hailed him as one of the best writer-speakers they've ever heard. Rest in peace.

Kama said...

Ditto May Zhee. Sad news indeed. May he rest in peace.

Tech said...

May he rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

A "hospice" is where someone goes to pass away peacefully. Skin cancer and meningitis can be cured I think. Why was he in a hospice?

bibliobibuli said...

erm ... perhaps because he was dying?

Anonymous said...

Frank McCourt could take memories of misery and make it into enjoyable reading. He laughed at misery after it had passed him by. That's like your own 'truth & reconcialiation commission'.

Angela's Ashes was his best. I found his subsequent Tis and Teacher Man had less zing, but still far better than a lot of others I've come across.

He deserves all the recognition. Sadly, we've lost a good story teller.

Joe O said...

Angela's Ashes was Frank McCourt's masterpiece. However, as a former NYC teacher, I really appreciated Teacher Man. He eloquently explained both the joy and frustration of being a teacher in an urban setting. He will be missed, but his legacy will live on through his writing.

bibliobibuli said...

i loved "teacher man" best - like you, Joe, i'm a teacher, and i feel so few writers are able to capture the classroom as honestly and as well as mccourt. it's a book to recommend to all my student teachers.

Mama Rock said...

I was introduced to Frank McCourt by a friend who was laughing all the way through her reading of Angels'a Ashes. So I borrowed her book, but did not appreciate the humor as I couldnt imagine the level of poverty and the miserable childhood he had to endure. Then a week later, I re-read to appreciate the humor and it was hilarious! I had re-read the book more than 10 times in the last 10 years - kinda like revisiting Limerick!