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Remembering Frank McCourt, author of 'Angela's Ashes'


 He won a Pulitzer Prize for autobiography at age 67 for his first book, "Angela's Ashes." Frank McCourt, a longtime English teacher, struck a chord with readers with his devastating memoir of growing up in poverty in Ireland.

McCourt, who had been doing well after cancer treatments, had contracted meningitis and was in hospice care when he passed away Sunday. 

Described in Newsweek as “the publishing industry’s Cinderella story of the decade,” “Angela’s Ashes” rose to No. 1 on bestseller lists, was translated into more than 20 languages and sold more than 4 million copies worldwide.

“At 66, you’re supposed to die or get hemorrhoids,” 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.”

McCourt waited until after he retired to pen his memoir, which he described as an "epic of woe" -- and he noted that he wasn't ready to write the book until his mother, the Angela of the title, had passed away. In that same Courant interview, McCourt said:

I certainly couldn’t have written ‘Angela’s Ashes’ when my mother was alive, because she would have been ashamed. 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.

The book also received a National Book Critics Circle Award and the 1996 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for memoir. In our review, we wrote, "By the end of this tender, harrowing and bleakly funny volume, the reader, too, is left marveling at how McCourt survived." 

How will you remember Frank McCourt and "Angela's Ashes"?

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Eric Feferberg / AFP/Getty Images

Comments () | Archives (12)

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Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam, Frank. I'm having a drink in your honor right now

Frank McCourt

Insightful, forgiving, loving, caring, educated through his own work, a hard working educator- fabulous prose.

He turned his beginning sow's ear llife into a silk purse.

We will miss him.


After reading Angels Ashes, I felt better about my first communion experience because like Mr. McCourt, I too nearly through up the body of Christ all over my parents front yard.

Goodbye Frank, the world will miss your truly unique voice

I just finished reading Teacher Man. As a public school teacher in a struggling area, Frank McCourt reminded me to teach from who I am rather than how I think I might be expected to teach.

Thank you, Teacher Man

Frank McCourt; goodness now we can look forward to the end of Man..... oopps....

Oh... that Frank McCourt; the genial author. So sorry for the loss.

Some things are so timely....I had just picked up my copy of "Teacher Man" to read again today and had wondered when we may get another volume of joy from this author when I saw your article. :-( A sad day for the literary world this is, another gifted writer gone from us.

First heard Frank on the radio while passing through Santa Cruz and met him at a reading book signing that same night.
His brogue and story telling captured me at once.
Met him next at the Sun Valley Idaho Writer's Conference.
First year I was downstairs from his talk and the raucous laughter and foot stomping above our classroom left no doubt that he had his audience in stitches. Great guy.
Blessings Teacher Man! and condolences to your wife, brothers and family. You will be missed.

God Bless his soul.

Frank McCourt concocted the most ridiculous stage-Irish fable to make a few dollars. THere is no doubt the man lived in poverty, but the tales of Angelas Ashes stretched credibility by a long way. I grew up in the west of Ireland at the same time as McCourt, and after reading the book, the lingering impression I was left with was tht the man is a caricaturist.

He came and spoke at my school as part of a "speaker's series".

He told the most hilarious story about receiving word that a publisher had made an offer for "Angela's Ashes".

As an atheist, I don't think he would want God to Bless his soul. His work, although critically acclaimed, was a colossal downer. Even though he probably wouldn't want it, I hope he finds the peace you never found in this life. I fell bad for his students, they are probably mired in self-pity in therapy. Catholic bash for eternity Frank!

I read "Teacher Man" a year ago and saw Angela's Ashes ( for the third time just last night) which inspired me to pen him a letter. I feel terrible and sad to know that I failed to meet him, but wonderful in experiencing his art. Viva Frank McCourt!

I love your work and I love the beautiful human being you were!. I will miss you dearly.
Lucky the ones who knew you in person!.
I read your books a million times and I always enjoyed very much every single page.
My heart goes with the family left behind.
I will love you always!!!!!!!!!!
Excuse my poor english!


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