Cannonball Read III: Teacher Man by Frank McCourt
When you teach English lit you can count on two things being brought up every time you talk to people about work: "What books do you like to teach?"and "How can you misuse grammar so often?". Reading Frank McCourt reminds me of those questions. He recounts the cocktail parties where he had to issue blase answers to these same questions and from that point on the book is pure manna for English teachers. He reminisces about classes that went awry, students who made him love his life (and worry for his sanity), and lesson plans that--against all odds--inspired young minds.
There's a buoyancy to McCourt's writing, a natural joy of story telling, the kind of happy-go-lucky, barroom bard who can hold an audience in the palm of his hand. That kind of gift for writing is what made him a best-selling author, turned his first memoir into one of the seminal books of the 1990s, and keeps McCourt among the most popular names in literature. But to say that this book is good because Frank McCourt is popular is to miss the actual strengths of the book.
Reading McCourt isn't great just because it's reading popular literature, it isn't just reading a fun-loving Irish story-teller in top form, it isn't even just that I like reading the thoughts and memories of another English teacher. The pleasure of reading Frank McCourt is the pleasure of hearing an English teacher at their most passionate answering questions and sharing their stories. If you're someone who dreads running into the English teacher at a cocktail party that might not be great, but if you love teaching and literature and story-telling and everything else that's part of a McCourt book, you'll enjoy this one too.
For more of The Scruffy Rube's reviews, check out his blog, The Scruffy Rube's Saturday Night.
This review is part of Cannonball Read III. For more information, click here.
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