Monday, July 27, 2009

Frank McCourt on Learning the Significance of His Insignificant Life

Frank McCourt, a former New York City schoolteacher who turned his miserable childhood in Limerick, Ireland, into a phenomenally popular, Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, “Angela’s Ashes,” died in Manhattan recently. He was 78 and lived in Manhattan and Roxbury, Conn.

It was “Angela’s Ashes” that loomed over all things McCourt, however, and constituted a transformative experience for its author.

Significance of Insignificant
Speaking to students at Bay Shore High School on Long Island in 1997, he said, “I learned the significance of my own insignificant life.”

‘Oh Well’
“I think there’s something about the Irish experience — that we had to have a sense of humor or die,” Mr. McCourt once told an interviewer. “That’s what kept us going — a sense of absurdity, rather than humor.

“And it did help because sometimes you’d get desperate,” he continued. “And I developed this habit of saying to myself, ‘Oh, well.’ I might be in the midst of some misery, and I’d say to myself, ‘Well, someday you’ll think it’s funny.’ And the other part of my head will say: ‘No, you won’t — you’ll never think this is funny. This is the most miserable experience you’ve ever had.’ But later on you look back and you say, ‘That was funny, that was absurd.’ ”

Read the entire article
William Grimes, Frank McCourt, Whose Irish Childhood Illuminated His Prose, Is Dead at 78, New York Times, 19 July 2009.

Frank McCourt the Storytelling Teacher, SFS.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Frank McCourt sitting in his old insignificant class room.