McCourt, Frank: Angela's Ashes
(researched by Margaret Stafford)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

McCourt, Frank. Angela's Ashes. New York: Scribner, 1996. No parallel first editions.

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

The first American edition was published in a hard cardboard cover with some trade cloth binding on spine and partially on front and back covers.

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

184 leaves, [1-10] 11-364 [4]

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?

The book is dedicated to the author's three brothers: "This book is dedicated to my bothers, | Malachy, Michael, Alphonsus. | I learn from you, I admire you and I love you." There is an Acknowledgment page that contains a hymn, pp.[7]. Book includes author's advertisement for next book titled 'Tis as the last roman numeral numbered chapter(XIX) under which the sole word "'Tis." constitutes the chapter.

6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?

1 illustration on pp.[2]: black and white photograph, very weathered with numerous creases. Features author as a young boy with group of classmates in an Ireland school circa 1938.

7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

Size of page: 23.4cm by 15.5cm Size of text: 19.5cm by 11.3cm Size of type: 98R Typography: "Dante" serif type, as definitively identified by Also given "Leyden" and "Buccardi" as supplemental possibilities. Noted on verso of title page: "Text set in Adobe Bembo." Chapters are numbered in roman numerals with 22mm line underneath, no titles. -First letter of first word in every chapter is bold. Book is in near perfect condition. Dust jacket is minimally worn at corners, but otherwise excellent condition.

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

White, smooth paper with straight edges - excellent condition. illustration printed on same type.

11 Description of binding(s)

Embossed calico grain cloth (dark reddish brown) covers spine and wraps around to back and front covers entending approx. 38mm on both sides. - remaining binding is brown cardboard. There are colored (dark green) endpapers in front and back of book. Dust jacket included.

12 Transcription of title page

recto: ANGELA'S | ASHES | A Memoir | [circular symbol] | Frank McCourt | SCRIBNER verso: [Scribner insignia] | SCRIBNER |1230 Avenue of the Americas | New York, NY 10020 | Copyright 1996 by Frank McCourt All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in | part in any form. | SCRIBNER and design are registered trademarks of | Simon & Schuster Inc. | Designed by Brooke Zimmer | Text set in Adobe Bembo | Manufactured in the United States of America | 21 23 25 27 29 30 28 26 24 22 | Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data | McCourt, Frank. | Angela's ashes: a memoir/Frank McCourt. | p. cm. | 1.Irish American-Biography. 2.Irish American-Ireland- | Limerick (Limerick)-Biography. 3.McCourt family. | 4.McCourt, Frank-Family. 5.Limerick (Limerick, Ireland)- | Biography. I.Title. | E184.I6.M117 1996 | 929'.2'0899162073-dc20 96-5335 | CIP | ISBN 0-684-87435-0

13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings

This information has not been located yet, but it would be a plausible assumption that since the publication is quite recent (1996) and the author is still alive, the author still holds the manuscript.

15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

Dust jacket: (see cover art image, #3) -back cover contains 6 quotes of praise for the author and the book in a gold-colored framing. -inside front flap contains book price: U.S.$24.00/Can.$31.00, and memoir summary. -inside back flap contains 2 quotes of praise, photograph of author, and short bio on author. Jacket design by John Fontana Jacket photograph copyright Culvwe Pictures, Inc. Author photograph by Jerry Bauer Printed in U.S.A. copyright 1996 Simon & Schuster Inc. Distributed by Simon & Schuster Inc.

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A

searches came up empty in OCLC and RLIN, but a WorldCat search found a Wheeler edition of the book published in 1996 and 1997.

2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

The first printing that was published in September of 1996 sold a modest 27,500 copies but "by the end of September, after four 4 trips to press, copies in print totaled 56,000" and after 13 trips to press, a total of 366,000 copies. The website (the official site of Simon & Schuster Publishing) claims that there are "more than 65 printings" and "over 2,325,000 copies in print in North America alone." This same source quotes the author in an interview as stating that "4 million copies around the world" are in print.

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

There was a TOUCHSTONE trade paperback edition by Simon & Schuster published in 1999 after they bought the rights to reprint the book from SCRIBNER for $1 million at auction. Other publishers: Aladdin, 2002. Livraria Francisco Alvez, Brazil; Munksgaard Rosinante, Denmark; HarperCollins, England; Belfond, France; Limes/Luchterhand, Germany; and Aschehoug, Norway. (dates not available)

6 Last date in print?

Angela's Ashes is still in print as of October, 2002.

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

According to the 1997 42nd edition of Bowker Annual 377,718 copies were sold. A more recent source from May of 2000 claims that the book has sold over 6 million copies.

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)

The only information about any sales figures was found in a 1999 Publisher's Weekly article. It states: "Hardcover sales approaching the 2.5-million mark."

9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)

searched endlessly, no luck.

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion

The only print advertisement found was not specifically for the book but for large print editions of various books from Wheeler publishing. The ad appeared in a Publisher's Weekly edition and was a full-page ad featuring 6 books covers, one of which is Angela's Ashes. Underneath the 6 book covers the ad says "LARGE PRINT | EXCLUSIVELY | FROM | WHEELER" with the Wheeler insignia on either side of the word "Wheeler" and the word Wheeler repeated around the perimeter of the ad forming a frame. Another promotional ad is the movie promo for the book and the one on the Web appears with a still shot of the actors from the film with "An Alan Parker Film | Angela's Ashes" centered over it, and above that a quote from Frank McCourt that states: "Angela's Ashes is the perfect realization of my book on film. It is everything I could have hoped for and imagined. I sing its praises." Underneath the picture says: "Now playing in New York City and Los Angeles | In Theatres Everywhere January 21st"

12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A

1999 Paramount Pictures film version (titled "Angela's Ashes") by Director Alan Parker and screenplay by Laura Jones, rated R. A musical review about their Irish youth titled "A Couple of Blaguards" performed by author, Frank McCourt, and brother, Malachy McCourt. (still on tour with performance in U.S. as of October, 2002) A book-on-tape read by Frank McCourt was created by Simon & Schuster Audioworks, 1997. -the CD version of the book became available in 1998, also by Simon & Schuster Audioworks.

13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

It was stated in Publisher's Weekly that "the Scribner book was published in more than 25 languages," but the following is all that was found definitive evidence of through various searches: [Persian] - Publication info: TihrØan : Kitab-i RØuz, 1379 2000 [Polish] - Publication info: Warszawa : *Swiat Ksi∏a∑zki, 1999. [Greek] - Publication info: AthØena : "Nea Synora" - Ekdotikos Organismos LivanØe, 1998. [Spanish] - Publication info: SantafÈ de Bogot· : Editorial Norma, 1997. [Chinese] - Publication info: 880-03 Beijing : Kunlun chu ban she, 1998. [Catal·n] - Publication info: Barcelona : Columna, 1998. [Hebrew] - Publication info: Or Yehudah : Hed artsi : Sifriyat Maëariv, c1997, 758 [French] - Publicatio n info: Paris : Editions J'ai lu, 1999. [German] - Publication info: Germany : Btb, c1998. [Korean] - Publication info: [Seoul] : Kory*o Munhwasa, 1999. [Braille] - Publication info: New York : Scribner, c1996. [Portuguese] - Publication info: Rio de Janeiro : Objetiva, 1997. [Hungarian] - Publication info: Budapest : Magvetîo, 1999.

14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A


15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A

A sequel novel titled 'Tis was published in 1999 by Scriber, Simon & Schuster.

Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

Frank McCourt was born in Brooklyn, New York on August 19, 1930 but moved to Limerick, Ireland at the age of four with his Irish immigrant parents. He spent his childhood and adolescent years in Ireland until he moved back to the United States in 1949 when just 19 years old. The story told in his memoir "Angela's Ashes" covers the growing-up years he spent in Ireland. Much of Frank McCourt's family history, including family member's actual names and real events of his upbringing, are documented in this work. Upon arriving in the States at 19, McCourt was at a loss for what to do with himself. He once commented in an interview that he "wasn't equipped to handle America" when he returned as a young man ( McCourt took menial jobs including cleaning at the Biltmore Hotel, hauling cargo, and cleaning toilets at a diner. He was then drafted into the American Army and served in Germany for two years during the Korean War. After his service, he was provided with a GI Bill that enabled him to gain admittance to New York University. He graduated in three and half years with a B.A. and later earned an M.A.. Once completing his education, McCourt began his profession as an English teacher. McCourt taught for twenty-seven years in numerous high schools, as well as some city colleges, in New York City. Once he retired, Frank and his brother, Malachy, performed a musical review of their Irish childhood called "A Couple of Blaguards" ( McCourt was entering his sixties when he began writing his acclaimed memoir "Angela's Ashes," which was published in 1996 ? McCourt was 65 years old. The book "spent 117 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list" ( and proceeded to win such prestigious awards as the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. There was a film version of the work that released in 1999 but was a box office disappointment despite McCourt's rave commentary: "Angela's Ashes is the perfect realization of my book on film. It is everything I could have hoped for and imagined. I sing its praises." The author's poverty-stricken youth while growing up and, eventually, out of Ireland was the motivation for McCourt's compilations of his childhood memories which ultimately created "Angela's Ashes." The memoir introduces us to McCourt's real family: Angela - his mother; Malachy - his father; Michael, Malachy, and Alphonsus - his three living brothers; and his twin brothers and only sister, Margaret, who all died when infants. When asked about how it was possible for him to create such humorous undertones to the depressing story, McCourt responded, "What was the alternative? ? whining?" but he admitted that while writing, "tears of sorrow mingled with tears of laughter." Frank experienced his own battle with disease when he stuggled to survive typhoid contracted as a child, having to spend many weeks hospitalized. It was there in his sick bed that he was first introduced to the writing of Shakespeare and so spawned his love for literature. In an interview prior to its publication in 1999, McCourt comments about the sequel titled ?Tis and his anticipation of it not being as well received: "I don't think it will be [as successful as Angela's Ashes]. It couldn' won't have the, the exotic appeal" ( His other works include a play titled "The Irish...And How They Hot That Way" produced by the Irish Repertory Theatre, 1997. He also contributed a chapter to the book "Yeats is Dead: A Mystery by Fifteen Irish Writers" (Knopf, New York, 2001.) McCourt has been married three times. From his first marriage came his daughter and only child, Maggie. He and his third wife, Ellen, currently live in Connecticut and New York. Frank McCourt's manuscripts remain in his own possession. As of 1999, McCourt's agent was Molloy Friedrichs and his editor was Adrian Bourne, c/o of Simon and Schuster in New York. McCourt hopes to soon write a novel and an another play (

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

It seems that Frank McCourt appeared from out of the woodwork when he exploded onto the literary scene with his 1996 publication of Angela's Ashes. As critic Devon McNamara observed about the immediate success of the memoir, "it seems to have become a literary sensation almost overnight." Already 65 years old when he wrote this debut book, McCourt was a new face to the world of critics. The initial sentiment coming from various criticisms was excitement and intrigue; to have an author doing for Limerick, Ireland what James Joyce did for Dublin. Yet the presiding question was just how did Frank McCourt survive his childhood at all? This was where speculation arises about just how accurate the memoir relayed the details of McCourt's youth. Despite the many years there have been between the time McCourt experienced these events and when he put them down on paper, leading to plausible doubt to the accuracy of the details, this memoir is overridden with praise. The majority of critics really hone in on McCourt's ability to evoke two opposing emotions in the reader ? sadness and mirth ? and many times simultaneously. Malcolm Jones Jr. observed: "The genius of the book is that the tears and laughter are rarely separated by so much as a comma." He also describes McCourt as a storyteller able to "induce in his readers a blissful literary amnesia" with a surprisingly "confident voice" for a first-time book writer. This aspect of McCourt's rhetoric causes the story to be told with a "mix of hilarity and pathos" (McNamara, Devon), allowing "cheerfulness [to break] into this tale of Celtic woe" (Elson, John). In the midst of all the hype, a popular grievance quickly arose dealing with the book's endless "examples of typical Irish stereotypes" but, on the whole, "critics felt McCourt successfully avoided reinforcing them" (Introduction, Contemporary Literary Criticism). The general opinion of critics is that a book should not be reviled for evoking stereotypes. Yet, as noted by Thomas Deignan, there is a consequence to doing so, and in the case of Angela's Ashes the book "can at times seem more a weepy compendium of ?Irishness' than a slice of a single, examined life." But Nina King claims that while Angela's Ashes does indeed "confirm the worst old stereotypes about the Irish?at the same time it transcends them through the sharpness and precision of McCourt's observation and the wit and beauty of his prose." Another element of the book that has caused significant split opinions is whether McCourt relays sentiments of resentment or spite about his upbringing in Ireland and/or his family members. Most literary critics confirm, that "there is not a trace of bitterness or resentment in Angela's Ashes" but also acknowledge that "there is plenty a less generous writer might well be judgmental about" (Kakutani, Michiko). Nearly all critics mention their excited anticipation for McCourt's future literary works. One example is Michiko Kakutani's statement: "Angela's Ashes is so good it deserves a sequel." And Nina King's aspiration: "let's hope that it is only the beginning of Frank McCourt's [writing career]." But to the population's dismay, McCourt's sequel titled ?Tis received less than complimentary reviews, not even remotely close to living up to its predecessor's standards. One of the most interesting criticisms came from Malcolm Jones Jr. and his observations on the memoir as a ?bestseller': "The success this book is having isn't supposed to happen in modern publishing, a world where "literary" and "best-seller" are never used in the same sentence." SOURCES: 1)Donoghue, Denis. "Some Day I'll Be In Out of the Rain." The New York Times Book Review (15 Sept. 1996): 13 2) McNamara, Devon. Christian Science ? (4 Dec. 1996): 13 3) Deignan, Thomas. Commonwealth, Vol.123 (8 Nov. 1996): 26 4) Jones, Malcolm Jr. "Hard Luck, Good Tales." Newsweek (2 Sept. 1996): 68-9 5) Kakutani, Michiko. "Generous Memories of a Poor, Painful Childhood." The New York Times (17 Sept. 1996) 6) King, Nina. "With Love and Squalor." Washington Post Book World (29 Sept. 1996): 1,10 7) Jones, Malcolm Jr. "From ?Ashes' to Stardom." Newsweek (25 Aug. 1997): 66-70 8) Monghan, Patricia. Booklist, Vol.92 (Aug. 1996): 1851 9) Elson, John. Time, Vol.148 (23 Sept. 1996): 74

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

Frank McCourt is the star of his own childhood life story, which he brought to the literary world in 1996 with his memoir, Angela's Ashes. The retired school teacher delighted readers with his quietly haunting recount of his upbringing in the slums of Ireland. But just what was it that made this book stand out in the midst of all other nonfiction to achieve bestseller status? The defining feature of this work is the ability of the author to find humor in such unfathomable dire circumstances and to then capture that sentiment in the written word. Frank McCourt, age 67 when he wrote his story, shows his remarkable ability to regurgitate the events of his youth in Ireland by narrating the story with the tenderness of a child's perspective. Without the element of humor as well as this child-view narration, the memoir would not have been nearly the success it turned out to be. The readers find themselves emotionally attached as they vicariously experience young Frankie's life. This effectiveness is largely due to McCourt's evolving 'innocent-eye' narrative technique; it allows the reader to experience his youth in an evolving form. This unique story-telling technique allows the reader to watch Frank develop through various stages of his childhood, ranging from the age of three to nineteen. As critic Malcolm Jones Jr. notes, "McCourt can climb inside a boy's head and piece the world together with a child's illogic" (Jones, CLC). The transformation in McCourt's writing to convey the shift into older ages is easily identifiable, yet amazingly subtle. The end result is the written text, McCourt's thoughts, and the ensuing relationship with the reader becoming more complex with the evolving narrative voice. When describing his experiences at the age of three, McCourt's writing style mimics a story told from a child's perspective. He uses simple rhetoric accompanied by the untainted discernment of a child: "We're on the seesaw. Up, down, up, down. Malachy goes up. I get off. Malachy goes down. Seesaw hits the ground" (19). McCourt demonstrates a basic, staccato-like sentence structure to present a situation as it would be heard and interpreted by a child. In another instance, Frankie, a few years older, has trouble distinguishing between sounds. Mrs. Leibowitz, a kind neighbor who lives in the same building as the McCourt family, says to Frankie, "Nice Chewish name?Why they give you a Chewish name, eh?" (34). The reader knows that the word Jewish is being spelled with a 'Ch' because that is how it would be heard pronunciated by a child. Just as simple rhetoric is used throughout the book, so are simple patterns of thought. Children have a tangible stream-of-consciousness which often leads to a tendency of changing subject matter mid-thought: "They have their tea?uncle Pa Keating, who is my uncle because he's married to my aunt Aggie, picks up Eugene" (72). The reader has already been made aware that Pa Keating is the children's uncle long before this moment in the story. This deliberate interjection that McCourt includes is to illustrate the tendency children have to incorporate unnecessary information into an observation. McCourt also portrays how children tend to convey their emotions through visual means, such as when Frank describes the anger he feels as "a blackness" coming over him. Due to his age, he is unable to clearly describe and fully express his thoughts and so resorts to such descriptions. Since children can only perceive things according to how it makes them feel, it is not unusual that little Frank refers to the elders of his family as "big people" (72). At this stage in his life, Frank is easily vulnerable to confusion and cannot comprehend complex concepts. Concepts such as death and religion are especially difficult for a child to understand: "[We] can't have Margaret anymore because she's like the dog in the street that was taken away. I don't know why she was taken away" (38). "Mam tells us that's the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and I want to know why the man's heart is on fire and why doesn't He throw water on it?" A unique relationship begins to form between the author and the reader because of McCourt's effective narrative method. This gives the reader more involvement and greater emotional attachment to the story, the characters, and the eventual outcome. As Frank ages to eleven years old, the language gradually develops into a moderately complex structure. McCourt begins using sentences with grammatical tools, like commas, that raise the level of complexity of the writing. For instance, the sentence "he drinks his tea in the morning, signs for the dole at the Labour Exchange, reads the papers at the Carnegie Library, goes for long walks far into the country?" shows an elevated level of comprehension in the maturing Frank. At this age Frank begins to give more detailed descriptions to words. Increased outside influences, like education and personal experiences, contribute to Frank's thoughts becoming more multifaceted. His thoughts are insightful but they still illustrate some of his childish gullibility. When his mother has a new child, Frank's brother, Malachy, inquires as to why their mother's bed is in the kitchen. McCourt writes, "I'm older so I tell Malachy the bed is in the kitchen so the angel can fly down and leave the baby on the seventh step but Malachy doesn't understand?he's only eight" (223). The fact he still thinks angels bring newborn babies shows his level of maturity and gullibility. There is a moment of sad humor when young Frank is contemplating death, which portrays the innocence of his mentality, but also his growing sense of skepticism: "The master says it's a glorious thing to die for the Faith and Dad says it's a glorious thing to die for Ireland and I wonder if there's anyone in the world who would like us to live. My brothers are dead and my sister is dead and I wonder if they died for Ireland or the Faith." (113). Once Frank ages to fourteen years, the written text has matured to convey evolved, complex thoughts. In this last section of the book, the writing has altered noticeably. The heightened complexity of Frank's rhetoric is demonstrated with the following: "Frost is already whitening the fresh earth on the grave and I think of Theresa cold in the coffin, the red hair, the green eyes. I can't understand the feelings going through me but I know that with all the people who died in my family and all the people who died in the lanes around me and all the people who left I never had a pain like this in my heart and I hope I never will again" (325). The text is very descriptive and has an evolved sentence structure, incorporating thoughts and feelings that are deeply profound and characteristic of a maturing adult. From the beginning through to the middle of the narrative, the reader is presented, rather than described, a scenario where the effect is often left up to interpretation. Nearing the end of the story, improved expressions of thought through Frank's words translate into a truer sense of the reader's comprehension. McCourt concludes with this didactic mode of writing where he explains everything in frank detail, leaving nothing up to interpretation. There is an evolved Frank evidently noticed from the start through to the end. As Frank McCourt grows and develops into an adult the writing evidences it. Thus, the written text, thoughts, and relationship with the reader evolves and becomes more complex as Frank matures. Examples taken from various stages in his youth illustrate these noticeable differences. Through an evolving child-perceiving narrative technique, McCourt establishes a powerful emotional connection with the reader. It is this emotionally-induced rhetoric that has proven to be the driving force of the memoir's popularity with readers. Another key element that contributes to the success of the book is McCourt's light-hearted treatment of such despicable topics, utilizing a matter-of-fact style and a touch of humor, that keeps the story from ever slipping into self-pity, which it easily could have done in the words of many another author. Had this story been one belonging to the "oh whoa-is-me" category of moaning nonfiction, the public surely would not have embraced it so readily. McCourt describes a life of degrading poverty with amazingly little bitterness. As critic Michiko Kakutani observes, "There is not a trace of bitterness or resentment." In fact, the tone of the book goes so far as to evoke fond remembrance, despite the struggle and strife. Readers observe Frank's "sentimental education" of discovering girls and literature, his coming to terms with religion and death, and the triumph of earning a living in order to escape to America. (Kakutani, CLC). The fact that McCourt has been deemed a "publicist's dream: a first-rate writer with stage presence," agreed upon by the majority of critics, certainly helps with the lasting popularity of the work (Jones, CLC). Having an author of a book of such raw material who is willing to talk, lecture, and answer "questions from reporters, fans and the merely curious" alike is a great contribution to the lasting success of a bestseller. Additionally, the author's adamant denial of the notion that his memoir disrespects the Irish city he grew up in is supported with his frequent visits to Limerick. He also addresses the debate readily whenever need be, once preempting a reading with: "People who think I have insulted Ireland or Limerick or my family HAVE NOT READ THE BOOK!" ( As McCourt speculates on how he survived his childhood on the very first pages of the memoir, the reader is not hit with what entailed that survival until the last page is read. The ability to adapt to whatever life threw at him, no matter how despairing, and the determination to resist what he was destined to become allowed this boy to become the man he is. This underlying theme of 'man triumphs despite impossible odds' attracts mass readers the same way the Great American Novel does; it is a story of Success. What made the book so compelling as to catapult it to blockbuster status was McCourt's uncanny ability to plug the reader directly into the consciousness of his childhood persona. Raised by a drunken, irresponsible father and a mother reduced to begging just to feed her children (several of whom died very young), McCourt certainly had ample material for a depressing tale. Yet despite the despondency he was faced with throughout his youth, McCourt is able to filter every event of Angela's Ashes through young Frankie's uniquely sharp and dark-humored sensibility. Contrary to what some people wished the novel to be about, the story is not meant to be seen as a statement against the misery of poverty; it is simply meant to recapture the purity of a young boy's view of the world around him.

You are not logged in. (Sign in)