Monday, July 20, 2009

On Frank McCourt

Twenty years ago, memoirists had to pretend they were fiction writers. And today fiction writers have to pretend they are memoirists! Readers loved the late Frank McCourt's memoir, Angela's Ashes (1996), and writers must give him his props for helping, with that book, to spark the U.S.'s Creative Nonfiction Revolution. That book generated thousands of memoirs, courses in memoirs, workshops on memoirs, interest in memoirs, and programs in creative nonfiction, all since the middle 1990s. "I want to write something like Angela's Ashes." You can! And probably publish it, because Frank McCourt did.

Other bestselling memoirs too get credit for the memoir phenomenon, most frequently Mary Karr's The Liars Club, Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life, and Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior. Earlier memoirs requiring our props and re-reads are I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970), Memories of a Catholic Girlhood (1957), Black Boy (1945), and My Brilliant Career (1901).

Nonfiction writers: Aren't you glad you live now?

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