'TIS by Frank McCourt

'TIS

A Memoir

KIRKUS REVIEW

            While not as tightly structured as his Pulitzer Prize-winning Angela’s Ashes (1996), the irrepressible McCourt’s follow-up memoir has the same driving rhythm, charm, and infectious humor that so captivated readers of the earlier installment.

            The story picks up in 1949 as McCourt, aged 19, sails to America to seek his fortune.  Befriended by a priest who helps him settle in New York City, he’s shocked when the man makes a drunken pass at him.  His life in New York becomes one of seedy boarding houses, menial labor on the docks and warehouses, and, always, heavy drinking, often with his brothers Malachy and Michael.  Conditionally admitted to New York University (he had no high school diploma), he’s thrilled to show off his textbooks on the subway but bored with the class work.  He’d rather read Sean O’Casey, “the first Irish writer I ever read who writes about rags, dirt, hunger, babies dying….”  He falls in love with and eventually marries Alberta “Mike” Small, a beautiful Episcopalian from New England.  It’s a marriage that will “become a sustained squabble.”  His early years as a high school teacher, first at a vocational school on Staten Island, later at the prestigious Stuyvesant High School, are humorously and revealingly retold.  His first words as a teacher?  “Stop throwing sandwiches.”  McCourt occasionally interrupts his chronological narrative with lengthy, if funny, portraits of characters he’s met along the way.  Angela, who has moved back to New York to be near her sons, has become a difficult, sickly woman upon whose death McCourt would write:  “I thought I’d know the grief of the grown man…. I didn’t know I’d feel like a child cheated.” 

            Those whose hearts went out to the little boy who suffered so in Limerick might be put off by the hard-drinking, carousing grownup.  But there’s no denying McCourt’s engaging wit.  Is it as rewarding as Angela’s Ashes?  ‘Tis.  (First serial to the New Yorker; Literary Guild main selection; author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-84878-3
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1999




MORE BY FRANK MCCOURT

NonfictionTEACHER MAN by Frank McCourt
by Frank McCourt
NonfictionANGELA'S ASHES by Frank McCourt
by Frank McCourt

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

IndieTHE ABLE SEAMAN'S MATE by William Cheevers
by William Cheevers
NonfictionMA, HE SOLD ME FOR A FEW CIGARETTES by Martha Long
by Martha Long
IndieTil Now by Donald James Brennan
by Donald James Brennan