When Frank McCourt died last weekend at age 78, we were momentarily transported, it seemed, to a more innocent age of the American memoir. But it endures as perhaps the dominant genre of contemporary literature — and an easier route to fame and fortune than the novel as Mr. Today, bookstores are clogged with memoirs, not just about abuse and addiction, but about parenting, cooking and dog rearing. There are B-list and C-list celebrity memoirs. The first-person confessional approach is an easy way for writers to add drama and voice to the most improbable subjects, while increasing their odds of getting booked on talk shows that shun the average novelist. But the heartland of memoir is still childhood, a place of magically vivid but fragmentary and often uncheckable memories that fairly cry out for imaginative reconstruction.
'I can't think of anything else I would rather have done' | Books | The Guardian
Frank McCourt is centre stage and loving every moment of it. The prize-winning Irish writer is sitting in front of a group of a dozen expectant and year-olds in their school library, each clutching a well-thumbed copy of his international best seller, Angela's Ashes. The students are members of a newly formed school book club and have recently been chosen to judge the prestigious Carnegie book award for children. They are among the top English students in years 7 and 8 at Capital City Academy in Brent, north-west London and are on its "gifted and talented" programme.
'I can't think of anything else I would rather have done'
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After all, it has been deemed that Literature with a capital L should be of a superior quality and have lasting merit. The sheer volume of sales substantiates that readers respond powerfully to memoirs. Meanwhile, his supporters have responded to the emotional impact of the texts rather than discussing the complex set of diverse materials upon which McCourt has formed his narrative: namely Ireland itself, the status of the memoir genre, and Irish-American identity.