Frank McCourt has died

A son of Brooklyn who grew up in Ireland, Frank McCourt, the retired New York City schoolteacher who bloomed late in life with an astounding literary career has died.  He was 78.

Mr. McCourt took us all to his childhood, both happy and horrifically poor, as he shared his austere Irish childhood with the world.  Mr. McCourt took the Pulitzer Prize for his memoir, “Angela’s Ashes.”

Mr. McCourt, who was recently treated for melanoma and then succumbed to meningitis, died today in New York City, his brother Malachy told the Associated Press.

“I’m a late bloomer,” a 66-year-old Mr. McCourt told the New York Times shortly after publication of “Angela’s Ashes” in 1996.

The Brooklyn-born son of Irish immigrants, Mr. McCourt was taken back to Ireland during the Depression when he was 4 years old.

Mr. McCourt spent the majority of his adult years serving as a teacher of English and creative writing in the New York public school system.

His tales of poverty netted him a later life filled with fame and fortune.  It was his self-described “epic of woe” – a memoir of a life in Limerick, Ireland, his acclaimed first tome, “Angela’s Ashes,” forever on the bestseller lists, that captured the world’s attention for Mr. McCourt.

It also won the Pulitzer for biography and the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction and was later turned into a 1999 movie.

“At 66, you’re supposed to die or get hemorrhoids,” Mr. McCourt told the Hartford Courant in 2003. “I just wrote the book and was amazed and astounded that it became a bestseller and won the Pulitzer Prize. It still hasn’t sunk in.”

When he returned to America in 1949, he told Newsweek, “all I had was this story. It took me two years and all my life to write it.”

Mr. McCourt was born on Aug. 19, 1930. His Irish parents could not make it in the States, reeling from the great Depression. The family returned to Ireland, and things just got worse for them all.

His mother was the Angela of the book’s title, and he wrote of her struggles to feed him and his siblings, and the shame of having to beg (and steal) to get by.

“I certainly couldn’t have written ‘Angela’s Ashes’ when my mother was alive, because she would have been ashamed,” Mr. McCourt told the Hartford Courant. “Her generation and my generation, to a certain extent, were never proud of having grown up in poverty and adversity. We always wanted to give people the idea that we grew up in kind of middle-class, or lower-middle-class, circumstances.”

Mr. McCourt penned ” ‘Tis: A Memoir,” in 1999, as a follow up sequel to “Angela’s Ashes” covering his life in America; and in 2005, “Teacher Man,” a memoir about his years as a New York City schoolteacher.


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