16 January 2017


Synopsis from Goodreads: Nearly a decade ago Frank McCourt became an unlikely star when, at the age of sixty-six, he burst onto the literary scene with Angela's Ashes, the Pulitzer Prize -- winning memoir of his childhood in Limerick, Ireland. Then came 'Tis, his glorious account of his early years in New York. Now, here at last, is McCourt's long-awaited book about how his thirty-year teaching career shaped his second act as a writer. Teacher Man is also an urgent tribute to teachers everywhere. In bold and spirited prose featuring his irreverent wit and heartbreaking honesty, McCourt records the trials, triumphs and surprises he faces in public high schools around New York City. His methods anything but conventional, McCourt creates a lasting impact on his students through imaginative assignments (he instructs one class to write "An Excuse Note from Adam or Eve to God"), singalongs (featuring recipe ingredients as lyrics), and field trips (imagine taking twenty-nine rowdy girls to a movie in Times Square!). McCourt struggles to find his way in the classroom and spends his evenings drinking with writers and dreaming of one day putting his own story to paper. Teacher Man shows McCourt developing his unparalleled ability to tell a great story as, five days a week, five periods per day, he works to gain the attention and respect of unruly, hormonally charged or indifferent adolescents. McCourt's rocky marriage, his failed attempt to get a Ph.D. at Trinity College, Dublin, and his repeated firings due to his propensity to talk back to his superiors ironically lead him to New York's most prestigious school, Stuyvesant High School, where he finally finds a place and a voice. "Doggedness," he says, is "not as glamorous as ambition or talent or intellect or charm, but still the one thing that got me through the days and nights." For McCourt, storytelling itself is the source of salvation, and in Teacher Man the journey to redemption -- and literary fame -- is an exhilarating adventure.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, Scribner, 2005.

How acquired: Via Book Mooch.

My thoughts:  I read ANGELA'S ASHES in 2007, after which I wrote in my journal entry on BookCrossing:
Very depressing. At first I had trouble too because I just couldn't fathom how the author could remember in such detail things that happened when he was 3 and 4 years of age. But then I began reading with the mindset that it I was reading fiction with a first-person narrator and was able to concentrate on the story. Then when the author was "ten going on eleven" I began to get really sucked in and was captivated until the end.

Then I read 'TIS in 2010:
I really enjoy McCourt's writing, as if he's sitting next to you weaving a tale for you. I liked this book even more than Angela's Ashes. Solid story of a young Irish immigrant intent on getting an education and becoming a teacher, despite all the odds against him - including very little family/friend moral support as he's constantly told he should stick to physical labor jobs that pay better.

TEACHER MAN then languished in my TBR pile until a couple of days ago, when I finally picked it up to read. I don't know why I waited so long, but I really enjoyed it. Teaching has got to be one of the hardest jobs around, and I admire anyone brave enough to make a career of it. Mr. McCourt writes very honestly about his feelings of inadequacy, constantly wondering how to get a handle on the job and expecting to be fired for being a fraud. His methods were unusual, but he was able to connect with kids and get their attention.

The writing flows, sometimes almost in a stream of consciousness style, as Mr. McCourt relates incidents, anecdotes and thoughts and feelings. I read this book in two days, something I've not done with a book in a long time. Partly because I had some time what with our office being closed due to an ice storm, but mostly because the writing and the narration just pulled me in and I became unaware of time passing. The end came all too soon. 

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