Monday, November 15, 2004
Poking around the internet, I learned that Frank McCourt’s third memoir, about his experiences as a high school teacher, is set for release in May, 2005. It’s still not clear whether the title is going to be Teacher Man or Donkey on a Thistle. I imagine that the former title would be the favorite of the publishers because they would think that the average person would be too dumb to get what the latter title means. (Okay, I have to admit that I’m dumb too, I don’t get it either.)
Frank McCourt originally intended to write a novel about teaching, but apparently he gave up on the novel idea in favor of yet another memoir.
His upcoming third book, whatever the title may be, is one that I am certainly looking forward to. “Mr. McCourt” was my English teach for my entire senior year in high school. I had him for both Creative Writing and Senior English. (I previously wrote about him in my blog: Creative writing with Frank McCourt). Despite having been in his class every single day for an entire school year, the Frank McCourt in his two previous books, Angela’s Ashes and ’Tis a Memoir, was a complete stranger to me.
(The Walter Waldhauser in the book The Cop Who Wouldn’t Quit was much more like the Mike Davis I knew in law school than the Frank McCourt in his previous two memoirs was like the Mr. McCourt I knew as a high school student. Who the heck is Mike Davis? Read my essay: Mike Davis aka Walter Waldhauser.)
Because, this time, he’s writing directly about the part of his life that I interacted with, I hope to finally recognize the Mr. McCourt I knew. However, it’s possible that the man is just such an enigma that that the side of himself he revealed to his students was simply a completely different person from the real Frank McCourt. Or maybe that’s the other way around; I did know the real Frank McCourt (I did see him standing in front of the class every day, he must have been real), and the McCourt in this books is just creative fiction.
The scary part about the book would be discovering that I, personally, was mentioned in it, and not in a very flattering light. However, the possibility of that happening is pretty slim. After all, he probably taught about 7,500 students in his career as a teacher (figuring 250 students a year over the course of thirty years), so he probably doesn’t remember me at all.
On the other hand, he claims to remember Lucy Liu:
At Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, Lucy Liu, who came to fame on ``Ally McBeal'' and who is co-starring in ``Charlie's Angels'' and Revlon advertisements, was a writing student of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Frank McCourt.``I was very quiet,'' Liu told Details magazine. ``He won't remember me.''
But McCourt did. ``Yes, Lucy was quiet,'' he said, ``and that was unusual at Stuyvesant,'' a high school for gifted students. ``When my students worked at exams, I would speculate on their futures. Because Lucy was so mature, I thought she might be a child psychologist.
``Of course, I was wrong. She's a glittering star, and we're all dazzled.''
Leah Garchik’s Personals, October 30, 2000. That’s pretty impressive, because although Lucy was supposedly in the class that graduated a year after me, I cannot recall ever seeing her around Stuy. (She was probably very unremarkable looking at the time, the kind of girl that no one would have ever mistake for a famous actress.)
I hope that Frank McCourt can write another book worthy of his well deserved fame from Angela’s Ashes. But I can’t help wondering whether McCourt has anything to say about teaching that would be applicable to regular teachers teaching regular students. McCourt was the most interesting and intellectual teacher I had in high school, and my high school is considered to be one of the best public high schools (if not the very best) in the country. I doubt that Frank McCourt’s experiences at Stuyvesant have much in common with the experiences of a typical teacher at a typical high school.