Frank McCourt: The Underlying Story

In 1996, (a 66-year-old) retired New York City public school teacher named FRANK MCCOURT published his first book, a memoir about his brutally impoverished Irish Catholic childhood in the slums of Limerick. If ever there was a “rags-to-riches” story in publishing, Angela’s Ashes was it: The book would go on to receive the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, sell more than four million copies in hardcover alone, and become a film directed by Alan Parker. At the age of 66, Frank emerged almost overnight as one of the most celebrated authors in America.

But if you knew Frank, you knew two things, at least: First, he never took anything at face value, including, and perhaps especially, his own extraordinary, late-blooming success. And second, for all the joy and gratitude he took from his unexpected good fortune, he refused to ever completely shed his (the) core of (coal-dark) anger that remained from (his childhood of poverty) growing up in terrible poverty. That he was able to so often turn that anger into unforgettable humor was just one of the many reasons why he was such a gifted writer. As he himself tells us, however, before becoming that writer, he somehow had to learn what he still needed to know. And in order to do that, he first had to become teacher.