Teacher Man – Book Review

Book Name : Teacher Man
Author : Frank Mc Court
Genre: Memoir
My rating:3/5

I have raved and raved about Frank’s earlier books,Angela’s ashes and Tis’. I find his style of writing irresistible with dollops of self-deprecating wit. It’s really surprising that this slim book took me almost 2 years to finish.Some books are just destined to get read in snatches , I think.

Synopsis from Goodreads

The author of Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis has been winning such superlatives since he broke onto the literary scene as a self-proclaimed “old man.” In this third volume of memoirs, the Pulitzer laureate turns to one of his first loves, teaching. He describes his sometimes-bumpy coming-of-age in the classroom and explains its integral relationship with his writing career. McCourt’s ability to fine-tune even short anecdotes eventually makes readers feel like partners in his apprenticeship

What I thought of the book:

I wouldn’t say I loved it.It was entertaining in snatches and Mc Court’s legendary squabbles with the corridors of power at schools gives a lot of scope for humour.Somehow,the book falls flat in stretches and was self-indulgent to the point of irritating me. Let me tell you more about the book. Mc Court reminisces about his teaching career spanning almost 30 years-a career that was spent among pimply teenagers surging with adrenaline in some of the meanest vocational schools in New York.Now,teaching teenagers is one heck of a challenge and more so if they are from some of the shadiest neighborhoods where education really isn’t priority. Traditional methods of teaching English and creative writing would definitely not work with these kids.

Frank talks of the unorthodox methods of teaching he used like letting a class sing recipes ,taking his students to a potluck picnic (to introduce new gourmet related words in their vocabulary),asking the kids to write excuse letters and many such “fun” things.Oh,how i wish I had a teacher like Frank.Infusing fun into classrooms is a laudable idea ,but at times I really wondered what the point was. Was it just Mc Court’s way of rebelling against the principals and review boards.Teachers have to stick to a teaching plan that is normally filed in beforehand,something Frank didn’t believe in.He freewheeled in his classes and told the students stories of his Irish upbringing and his childhood impoverished conditions.

Frank has never shied away from exposing his deepest thoughts .In his first book Angela’s ashes ,he barely manages to disguise the contempt he had for his father.In Teacher Man he takes us through his crumbling marriage and how one fine day after teaching hundreds and hundreds of kids for years,he finds himself in a dead-end job and in a rut. His hate-hate relationship with the Catholic church obviously gets mentioned (many, many times) in the book.What did impress me was Frank’s unwavering belief that education was not about letting kids cram pages and pages of literature only to have them vomit it out in the exam,but was about equipping them to find their footing in the world- something Mona lisa smile and The dead Poet’s society also talk about. Whatever Frank was not,he loved his students as individuals and not just as random kids sitting at random desks in a classroom.

Despite an engaging narrative,the book somehow didn’t work for me in the way his first two books did. Frank just came across as a self-absorbed writer who just wanted to fill the pages of his book. Not as entertaining as his first two books.Maybe,I can’t read books by self-absorbed writers any longer.. Overall,its an okay read. Not earth shattering,but a decent read that delves into the “business of education”. I would recommend it to teachers and people who work with adolescents and would rate it 3/5.

I am off on vacation for a week and wont be able to read your posts. Have a super week and stay safe ,people.

The bookworm’s newsletter- Part one

I have been catching up on quite a bit of reading in the last few weeks.. Some unexpectedly enjoyable ones and some that threatened to crack my cranium (and hence promptly abandoned)..

My top 4 for the month ..

No 4: Shopoholic in Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella

I lmmensely liked cofessions of a shopaholic and that’s why decided to read the next one in the series as well. It was a riot … breezy and funny.Just like what a chick-lit should be. This book chronicles the adventures of Becky in the shopper’s paradise of NYC.. How she gets embroiled in more shopping and wreaks havoc on her already skyrocketing debt levels is what the story is mostly about … It’s a totally fun read and I suspect a lot of girls might relate to the stuff.. I did!!

No 3 : The white tiger by Aravind Adiga

Unexpectedly, I didn’t like it too much. A lot has been said and written about the book, but to me honestly, it was a let down. The book is fast , racy and un-putdownable, but somehow , didn’t work for me. Adiga tells the story of a social entrepreuner writing a letter to the Chinese premier about how he climbed out of darkness (poverty)to the world of light. Corrupt landlords and politicians, prostitutes with blonde wigs, Adiga’s take (ok the protagonist!!) all the dirt in India.. You’ll find it all in the book…

No2: Tis’ by Frank Mc Court

This is an adorable sequel(part one is Angela’s Ashes) to the memoir of Frank, an Irish Immigrant who makes America his home. Frank is 19 and lands in America , not knowing what to do with himself. The desire to do well is all he has with him. He takes up odd jobs, serves in the army and finally ends up becoming a teacher after getting a degree. Amazingly witty and totally irreverant style kept me in splits. Frank’s adventures as a teacher with a brogue accent is endearing . Truly enjoyable .

No1 : Angela’s Ashes

My “favouritest” book for the month!!. Angela’s ashes is a coming of age story of Frank, an Irish lad , so poor that he is permanently malnourished.His father drinks away all the money , but promptly keeps furthering his progeny putting the family through assorted misfortunes. What I liked about this book is that Frank has Zilch remorse about being poor. Incredibly witty and funny. Frank has a unique style of writing and doesn’t use quotes for any of the dialogues.Incidentally, the book won Pulitzer Prize in 1997. Fun read.

Now, the unfortunate ones that didn’t make it.. 😉 Actually these got abandoned

The Golden Notebook by Dorris Lessing.
Got abandoned as the book just meandered on and on about socalism and about a writer who had 4 differently coloured books for compartmentalising her life… I found the book incredibly depressing and 100 pages into the book got tired of all the intellectual –socialist-babble .
Now , I know Is that I’ll never be a socialist. Ever.
The author won the Noble prize for Literature in 2007. Maybe, I can’t stand “Intellectual” and “intelligent” books. Honestly, the pace was very slow and hence had to chuck it out ;-).

Istanbul – By some guy whose name I don’t remember.
I picked it up as it had a lot of pictures and had never read a memoir of a city before.I decided to abandon it as it was incredibly boring… The author talks about his family ,their weird mannerisms and Istanbul in general. I really don’t know what the book is actually about, as i never got beyond the 30th page .. If someone does read it , do let me know..

And I have picked up these weird book-worm-habits. I have to update my book shelf on Shelfari the minute I finish reading a book. I have also started reading 2 books at a time. I swap between books , if the going gets boring.. Talk about quirks !!

Next on the agenda are A thousand Splendid suns and Veil of roses. Incidentally, I loved Kite runner( i know i digress quite a bit.My ex-bosses have always told me that.)

Someday, I will own all the books there are in the whole-wide-wurld!!! Silver-fishes, dog-eared pages, musty smell of old books, glossy magazines..Aha !!.. How orgasmic can it get ?;-)

Would love to hear your pick for the month .. do drop in a line.