In his third book, Teacher Man, McCourt offered a bleak summary of his life: “I was born in New York and taken to Ireland before I was four. I had three brothers. My father, an alcoholic, wild man, great patriot, ready always to die for Ireland, abandoned us when I was ten going on eleven. A baby sister died, twin boys died, two boys were born. My mother begged for food, clothing, and coal to boil water for the tea… My brothers and I left school at fourteen, worked, dreamed of America, and one by one, sailed away.” It wasn’t just the inherent drama of his life that made Angela’s Ashes such a well-loved book—it was the honesty and humour with which he told his story.
McCourt never held forth on the craft of writing; and yet, reading his books could teach you more about being a writer than most creative writing 101 classes. In tribute to him, here are five things I learned about writing from his work.