SAL/on air is a literary podcast featuring engaging author talks and readings from over thirty years of Seattle Arts & Lectures’ programming.
In this episode, we hear from Frank McCourt, who joined us in November 2006 for a lively talk about committing his youth to paper in his phenomenally popular memoir series, beginning with Angela’s Ashes. At the conclusion of McCourt’s talk, Margit Rankin, then-Executive Director of Seattle Arts & Lectures, joins him in an interview.
McCourt, a New York City schoolteacher who taught for nearly three decades, always told his writing students, “Write what you know.” It wasn’t until his mid-60s, in 1996, that he decided to follow his own advice, sitting down to produce the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning Angela’s Ashes, based on his poverty-stricken childhood in Limerick, Ireland. At the time of McCourt’s visit, two more best-selling installments had followed his first offering: ’Tis, describing his struggle to gain his footing in New York, and Teacher Man, an account of his misadventures as a public-school teacher. Sadly, McCourt is no longer with us, but his incomparable voice lives on.
In his talk, hear McCourt, with his uncanny humor and profound sense of humanity, characterize the Irish Catholic school of his youth as “the school of fear and trembling.” Find out how, as a young Korean War veteran with “no high school diploma and no self-esteem,” he was able to convince the dean of NYU to admit him, and how his education ill-prepared him for what he calls the “flying sandwich situations” in the tough vocational high schools of Brooklyn.