Teacher Man by Frank McCourt (Simon & Schuster), 260 pages, $36 cloth. Rating: NNNN
With the release of Teacher Man, we can officially designate Frank McCourt one of the premier memoirists writing in the English language today.
Not that we didn't already know he was good. It's just that he's now managed to crank out three books without having to reach for any thin material.
Here, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Angela's Ashes recounts his experiences teaching in various New York City classrooms from the 1950s to 80s. As he instructs a series of English and creative writing classes, he's seen either as a genius or completely insane, depending on who's the principal.
He has all kinds of unusual strategies. He gains the respect of his very first class by eating a sandwich thrown by a student. After getting many forged excuse notes from absent students, he suggests they write excuse notes to God from the point of view of Adam and Eve. You can see why an unimaginative educator might have some doubts about the man.
But the main reason why his students think he's the bomb is because he tells them great stories. Which is exactly what he does here.