John's Reviews > Angela's Ashes

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
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's review
Jan 11, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: books-i-own, biography-memoir, favorites, notable-debut

The Finest Memoir from the Foremost Memoirist of Our Time

In a time when memoirs became the finest expressions of high literary art, "Angela's Ashes" ascended with alacrity to become the most exalted of them. Its author, Frank McCourt, my beloved Stuyvesant High School creative writing teacher, would be hailed as the foremost memoirist of our time. Many, many years ago I knew Frank's heart-rendering stories of his dismal Irish childhood were the potential stuff of legend. But not once could I ever imagine the worldwide popular and crticial acclaim which greeted the original publication of "Angela's Ashes" nearly thirteen years ago. While I still mourn Frank's passing, I do take great comfort knowing that he touched the lives of so many around the world with both his lyrical prose and spellbinding gift of storytelling.

If you haven't read "Angela's Ashes" before, then I strongly encourage you to do so, for Frank's tale is ultimately a universal tale that is a most memorable meditation on the human spirt, chronicling one man's successful escape from the stark, quite bleak, poverty of his childhood. And that I believe is why "Angela's Ashes" has won its well-deserved legions of fans, not only here in North America, but elsewhere, around the globe.

Elsewhere online I posted this tribute to my favorite high school teacher, and I think it is worth noting here:

I've been fortunate to have had many fine teachers in high school, college and graduate school, but there was no one like Frank McCourt. Without a doubt, he was the most inspirational, most compelling, and the funniest, teacher I ever had. I am still grateful to him for instilling in me a life-long love of literature and a keen interest in writing prose. Am still amazed that he encouraged me to enter a citywide essay contest on New York City's waterfront, and would, more than a year later, in my senior yearbook acknowledge my second prize award by thanking me for winning him money (His was also, not surprisingly, the most eloquent set of comments I had inscribed in my yearbook from teachers.). He is gone now, but I am sure that for me, and for many of my fellow alumni of his Stuyvesant High School classes, he will live in our hearts and minds for the rest of our lives.

(EDITORIAL NOTE November 24, 2011: A limited edition Gaelic translation is now available from the Limerick Writers Centre, celebrating the 15th anniversary of this memoir's original publication date. Alas, I can't post the website here, but GOOGLE Limerick Writers Centre and/or Frank McCourt Museum for further details.)

(Reposted from my 2009 Amazon review)

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