Frank McCourt and the American Memoir

  • By JENNIFER SCHUESSLER

When Frank McCourt died last weekend at age 78, we were momentarily transported, it seemed, to a more innocent age of the American memoir.

Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press

MEMOIR MAN Frank McCourt wrote of his miserable Irish childhood in his first book, which set in motion a boom in memoirs, including some fakes.

For once, public discussion of a best-selling memoirist didn’t involve the words “fabrication,” “apologize” or “James Frey.” Instead, publishing insiders and ordinary readers alike recalled being captivated by the poetic intensity and rueful humanity of Mr. McCourt’s “Angela’s Ashes,” while former students fondly recalled the brilliant New York City public school teacher who waited until his mid-60s to finally grow up into a world-famous, Pulitzer Prize-winning author by writing down the amazing stories of his hardscrabble Irish childhood he’d been spinning out loud for years.

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