Guest Author - Mary Ellen Sweeney
Frank McCourt - Rest in Peace
Frank McCourt, teacher, Pulitzer Prize winning writer, and brother to raconteur, Malachy McCourt, passed away on July 23, 2009.
Writing fearlessly about the fearsome childhood he shared with his siblings, Frank opened the eyes of all who viewed the auld sod with emerald-colored glasses. He shows readers the worm in the apple of Ireland after the War, a place so stark that little boys lived in houses with the sewage from the community toilets in the lane flooding the downstairs while the family lived, always cold and always hungry in the upper bedrooms. Like many contemporary Irish writers, Frank McCourt remembers a far different country than the St. Paddy's Day folk would have us believe.
But it is not for his sad stories that he will be most remembered, Frank McCourt was, by all accounts, a gifted teacher, who in the course of a career teaching English, figured he had offered Shakespeare to over 10,000 students. His requirement that students taking responsibility for their own learning, his modesty, and his wit, have earned him a reputation both fine and rare in the annals of the New York Public School system. Highlights include his connection between how a pen works and how a sentence works (in explaining subjects and grammar, an area which he struggled with himself) and his use of realia in his writing, like the students' excuse notes and cookbooks.
He taught from the time he was 27 and continued for 30 years. He spent most of his teaching career at Stuyvesant High School, NY, where he taught English and Creative Writing.
He will be missed by all who loved him, and they are many. Niall O'Dowd, publisher of the IrishCentral.com,remembers Frank fondly, "He never lost the run of himself. I don't know how many struggling young writers received words of encouragement or book blurbs from Frank. I don't know how many charity events he supported, or how much money he secretly slipped to writers in need. I suspect it was quite a lot. He would never say."
Frank McCourt was above all a story-teller. Listen to Frank read James Joyce...