I was never a fan of nonfiction, like most readers I know. But, was I missing out! In my senior year of high school I had an amazing creative writing teacher that showed us the wonderful world of creative nonfiction. She had us read a few pieces that completely changed my warped bias against nonfiction writing.
One excerpt we read was from Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. I fell in love with his writing immediately. He told you what he wanted to say with raw honesty and unveiled the truth about his life in a way that seemed conversation. It was like he was reading the words directly to me. I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in the United States where I didn’t have to face hardships like poverty, hunger, and the death of many loved ones due to old medical practice and high mortality rates. McCourt explains his childhood in a way that even a privileged person like myself can begin to feel his pain and understand the suffering he experienced growing up. Now, I say begin to feel and understand because no one can empathize with Frank unless they went through the horrors themselves. But, his writing truly opens the eyes and encapsulates an era and the people of his time.
There are three books in this series:
1. Angela’s Ashes
3. Teacher Man
In all of these books you will find a man full of innocence who slowly discovers himself, how he can help others, and how to survive in the current of an ever-changing culture stream. You will be there with Frank as he experiences loss, tiny victories, and countless moral dilemmas. He is endearing. Multiple times throughout the series I wished I could reach out and offer solace for this poor, suffering being. A hand, a hug, I wanted to give him anything that would provide comfort. Frank McCourt is a man you will fall in love with for his honesty, naiveté, and beautifully flowing, written word.
Whenever I read a book there is a little challenge I pose to the writing. I want it to force me to read it again. Even if there is just a sentence that I must continually repeat, I want there to be something that keeps me coming back. If I find a sentence, word, or thought that moves me so profoundly I will find a post-it-note, write a comment, and insert it into the book so that I can return later and experience the serendipity again. It doesn’t happen very often, and it is even rarer that a book contains several of these moments. Teacher Man is the exception. The ending was so touching and powerfully emotional I found myself placing a plethora of notes into the pages.
As I neared the end of the book, and consequently the series, I knew I would feel an impending sense of loss after I finished it.
The series was just so beautiful I didn’t want to end my stroll, sometimes more of a trudge, with McCourt. I wanted to sit down with him and discuss literature over tea (made the correct way of course). I wished to accompany Frank to a movie or one of his solitary walks in the streets. I wanted to wrap him up and put him in my pocket so that I’d never have to face this world without him. I wanted so much from him. But, then I realized he has already given me everything he could. He wrote these books. He placed these snapshots of a haunted childhood and subsequent adulthood so that I could be with him. He wanted me there. He wants you to be there as well. All I need to do to keep Frank McCourt with me is to read his works. Over and over. I think I will be reading his literature until I myself face old age and the end of my days.