Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Telling stories: McCourt as writer and teacher

As this NY Times piece says, former students of Frank McCourt are leaving tributes online about him.

Mr. McCourt began teaching in 1958, when he was 28, at Ralph R. McKee Vocational High School on Staten Island, and from 1972 to 1987 taught at Stuyvesant High School, a highly selective school, then on East 15th Street in Manhattan. His students learned from him that literature was nothing more — and nothing less — than the telling of stories.

I noticed that one of them is Marc, aka Wheelchair Kamikaze, who wrote about McCourt's death from the point of view as a former student. McCourt was his favorite teacher and he tells this wonderful anecdote:

When the class's attentions actually did turn to the study of English, we would often read Mimi Sheraton's restaurant reviews in the New York Times, the prose of which could transport Mr. McCourt to a state of rapturous joy. It wasn't until I read Angela's Ashes nearly 20 years later, that I understood his fixation on Ms. Sheraton's columns. He'd grown up quite literally starving, and the eloquent superlatives lavished on edibles by Mimi Sheraton must have put words to his own lifelong fascination with food.

Other students have left their recollections about Frank McCourt here.

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