'Tis : a memoir

by Frank McCourt

Paper Book, 1999




New York : Scribner, c1999.


Memoir covering McCourt's American journey from impoverished immigrant to teacher and raconteur.

User reviews

LibraryThing member bjmitch
Quite some time ago I reviewed McCourt's first autobiography, Angela's Ashes. 'Tis is the second book which picks up as Frank is sailing from Ireland to America, where he expects to see everyone has a tan and beautiful white teeth, i.e. the Hollywood version. First lesson, New York City and its people don't much resemble his expectations.

He's still poor as a churchmouse of course but he finds a job sweeping the floor and emptying ashtrays in the lobby of the Biltmore, then moves on to a warehouse job on the docks. He rents a place at a rooming house with a strange landlady and her handicapped son. Eventually he talks his way into NYU despite his lack of a high school diploma. Many of my friends will be happy to learn he got in because of his reading habit. He had read classic literature that most American youth would disdain. At length he becomes a teacher, a teacher with a girlfriend no less.

You may remember he had three surviving younger brothers; they all came to this country. His mother finally came here as well and made a career of carping about everything American. The book ends as the McCourt sons and their children take Angela's ashes back to Limerick.

I raved about the first book. I laughed my head off reading parts of it and other parts tore my heart out. Young Frankie's poverty-stricken childhood was terrible. However, I was disappointed in this book. It's written in the same stream-of-consciousness style and he has the same sense of humor, and parts of it made me laugh out loud. The adult Frank McCourt, though, isn't such a sympathetic character. There were times when I wanted to take him by the shoulders and shake some sense into him. I wanted to say, "Stop feeling sorry for yourself and for heaven's sake stay out of Irish bars!" But I must admit McCourt is a good man at heart and he's certainly a better writer than I'll ever be.
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LibraryThing member cljacobson
after having listened to Angela's Ashes-- the sequel seemed required; I enjoyed the parts where he was working at getting his education ( although not having a hs diploma) and especially his first weeks in the classroom; having recently begun substitute teaching... it is apparent that some things "never" change.
LibraryThing member dpf2102
From reading through the reviews, I imagine I'm in a very small minority of readers who picked up "'Tis" wthout ever having read "Angela's Ashes". While this may mean I am not aware of some information regarding character background, etc., I did not feel at all lost while reading the book. In fact, it was only after I finished reading it that I realised this was a continuation of sorts of another book.

While many other readers were apparently disappointed in this book compared to "Ashes", I believe that on its own it is a very well-written and enjoyable book. The prose was extremely readable and the situations and characters very interesting. McCourt helped make the immigrant experience approachable by highlighting the awkwardness and disorientation that a young Irish man finds upon his arrival in North America.

Very highly reccomended, whether or not have you read "Angela's Ashes".
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LibraryThing member Moonkey
For me this was such a disappointment after Angela's Ashes which is one of my favourite books. It felt too much like he was trying to scrape up any vaguely interesting memories for the sake of it and the last half was boring in places. It's still worth a read if you liked Angela's Ashes.
LibraryThing member Clueless
Funny how people who liked [Angela's Ashes] hated ['Tis] and vice versa. I loved Tis, it had me in stiches again and again!
LibraryThing member chichyJakMysz
This book is too witty! Had me giggling the whole way through. A lot different from the depressing Angela's Ashes.
LibraryThing member MiserableLibrarian
The sequel to Angela’s ashes. McCourt picks up where Angela’s ashes left off-Frank has arrived in New York at age 18, and begins his life in America once again. The story traces his difficulties as a poor immigrant, his relationships with many people, and his eventual career as a high school teacher in NYC. It may be that sequels are always a bit disappointing, and McCourt’s well-written story with its unhappy and somewhat fatalistic ending was to be expected.… (more)
LibraryThing member Joles
The wonderful continuation of Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes" please see the review for Angela's Ashes. Everything there is also fitting for this book.
LibraryThing member DSlongwhite
I have mixed feelings about this book. I kept hoping I'd come to the point that I would like the character, but I never did. He seems to blame other people for his problems, he's not moral, he drinks too much.

His life was difficult and only moderately interesting.
LibraryThing member l-mo
'Tis follows Angela's Ashes in the life story of Frank McCourt, now a poor Irish American trying to make his way in New York City. It's not as endearing as Angela's Ashes but worth reading anyway to learn more of McCourt's life.
LibraryThing member joeycgrant
This book was good, but I felt it was much slower than Angela's Ashes.
LibraryThing member alexis3700
Not as great as it's predecessor, but good none the less.
LibraryThing member TTAISI-Editor
A great story, and a good follow-up to "Angela's Ashes."
LibraryThing member Crumples
Tis is the sequel to Angela's Ashes. The book continues to describe the life of Frank McCourt, a very poor Irish immigrant trying his best to make a life in America. The tale is told with much humour and it describes the hardships of immigrants who have a very limited social net.
LibraryThing member davidabrams
Here’s the first thing you need to know about Frank McCourt’s second book: ’tisn’t as good as the first. But of course the twinkle-eyed Irish gent set an impossible-to-beat standard for himself with Angela’s Ashes. His memoir of poverty and survival in Limerick’s slums was overwhelmingly sad, funny and—most of all—honest.

And now, with ’Tis, McCourt’s tale continues from where he left off in Angela’s Ashes—on board a freighter as it sails from Ireland to New York. The next-to-last chapter of Angela ended with the question "Isn’t this a great country altogether?" The last chapter consisted of a single word: "’Tis."

With the against-all-odds success of his first book, published when he was sixty-five, is it any wonder that McCourt would want to continue the momentum of his charming storytelling? ’Tis no wonder ’tall. While it may seem unfair to compare the two books, it is fair to say that this sophomore effort doesn’t pack much of a punch as a stand-alone memoir. The weakness of ’Tis is easy to pinpoint: there’s just not enough of a story between the covers. There are times when McCourt seems to be stretching his life to fit the number of pages, instead of shrinking the number of pages to fit his life.

Once McCourt arrives in New York City in 1949, his tale becomes a connect-the-dots odyssey of a young immigrant making his way in America during the post-war years. ’Tis is hampered by the truth-is-sadder-than-fiction events in Angela. Nothing could possibly be as bad as McCourt’s miserable childhood and, here in ’Tis, the events of his later life pale by comparison.

Nonetheless, it’s a bit of a relief to see how well McCourt triumphs over his squalid beginnings. Don't get me wrong; he still scrapes and struggles even after he arrives in America, the Promised Land. We watch him scrounging for low-paying jobs like emptying ashtrays at the Biltmore Hotel or unloading freight at the dockyards. He joins the Army, but instead of going to fight in Korea, is shipped off to Germany where he learns how to type and discovers great writers like Melville and Dostoevsky. He returns to America, cons his way into New York University and eventually gets a job teaching high school. Along the way, he wrestles with the demons of his father’s waywardness and the Irish penchant for drink.

He’s anxious, unsettled, looking for his place in the world. As he tries to assimilate into American culture, he outruns his heritage like it was a dog nipping at his heels:

"Why is it the minute I open my mouth the whole world is telling me they’re Irish and we should all be having a drink? It’s not enough to be American. You always have to be something else, Irish-American, German-American, and you’d wonder how they’d get along if someone hadn’t invented the hyphen."

And later, when he’s sitting quietly in his college class, he confesses:

"There are times when I wish I could reach into my mouth and tear my accent out by the roots. Even when I try to sound American people look puzzled and say, Do I detect an Irish brogue?"

What I admire most about ’Tis is the same thing that made me fall in love with Angela: McCourt’s distinct, easy-flowing style. He tells his life story in an ironic and self-deprecating tone of voice, sprinkling it with just enough salty humor to make you mark the place on the page with a finger while you stop to have a good chuckle.

By now, however, McCourt has run out of life to relate; after ’Tis, I doubt there’s much left to tell. For his next book, I wouldn’t mind seeing a novel. He’s got a good ear for dialogue and a keen eye for describing characters and wouldn’t it be a lovely thing altogether if he was to fashion a funny little novel out of his imagination?

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LibraryThing member dele2451
This is my second book by Mr McCourt and his writing make brings the reader so close to him that it is almost like I've becoming a cousin through his work. His insights into the bigger themes of teachers, the education system, and the invisibility of immigrant workers to the affluent are relevant themes and they balance nicely with the highly personal nature of the rest of his story. While 'Tis isn't as good as Angela's Ashes, it is still much better than most and definitely worth reading.… (more)
LibraryThing member bohemima
Although not as good as Angela's Ashes, this is still an engaging work from an author with a friendly, sweet voice. The reader will wish he/she could have met McCourt, shared a few drinks, and listened to some more of his wonderful stories.
LibraryThing member KatharineDB
not as good as Angela's ashes... but still a great read..
LibraryThing member mmillet
As the second installment in Irish Catholic Frank McCourt's moving memoir series, 'Tis is the portrayal of a young man trying to find his place in a world ready to eat him up. His first book, "Angela's Ashes," details his early childhood in the slums of Limerick, Ireland and 'Tis picks up in the fall of 1949 as he is finally making his way to America. What follows is a wry, hilarious and often heartbreaking deception of his struggles to make his way through a foreign country to find a job, education and even love. McCourt finds his start in America at seemingly dead-end jobs even as he dreams of one day becoming a college student like those he sees on the subway with their books and superior attitudes. After spending time in the army, he is finally admitted to New York University even without a high school diploma but is constantly fearful of being looked down upon due to his lack of education. After finally obtaining a teaching post, McCourt depicts the farce that is the American educational system as he battles with students and administrators until he is able to teach a creative writing class at a respectable high school. Frank McCourt is a masterful writer. I think part of what makes him so dang good is his unusual lack of punctuation. No quotation marks and hardly any commas or periods either. I'd often read half a page before I realized it was all one sentence. This style made everything seem more immediate and more often than not, I'd feel myself right there with him during the war, at a job, or in his classroom. On top of that, his honesty is what really sets his narrative apart. McCourt cuts no corners and doesn't shy away from the truth, even if it is embarrassing or damaging to himself.The Hubby and I listened to "Angela's Ashes" read by the author himself and since then I can't but help hear his unforgettable, almost simplistic voice in my head as I read 'Tis. His story is so poignant, so honest that it and the emotions they raise so fresh - it all stays with you long after you finish, truly making his books absolutely unforgettable.… (more)
LibraryThing member KApplebaum
Angela's Ashes sucked me in. The sequel is a fabulous read (I couldn't put it down), but it's only getting four stars because Angela's Ashes is just a shade better.
LibraryThing member MarysGirl
I finished this last week. Not as relentlessly depressing as Angela's Ashes but there's still enough "Black Irish" to make you cry every now and then; and enough honesty to make you laugh. McCourt is a brilliant storyteller. I particularly like how he does dialog as a stream of consciousness without quotes or attributions. You can see the back and forth between teacher and reluctant students, wife and drunken husband, army grunts and officers. Although I did get a bit tired of the sore eyes and bad teeth. I assume he had them fixed, but he used them metaphorically throughout the narrative to put himself in a pathetic light. But that is a small quibble. Highly recommend this book.… (more)
LibraryThing member jjnaaucoin
I wanted it to be like the first book. I tried to get into it, I even finished it but it wasn't anything like the first one for me.
LibraryThing member turtlesleap
McCourt's straightforward, affecting style is the big attraction in this book. For anyone who read Angela's Ashes, however, it is bound to disappoint a little. McCourt continues his story, taking it up with his arrival in New York, his military service, his early jobs, friendships and education and the early years of his teaching career. His honesty and low-key delivery make the memoir compelling.… (more)
LibraryThing member melissavenable
Frank McCourt smiles from the book jacket cover photo, but his story (beginning when he comes back to New York from Ireland) is full of dissappointment, challenge, and heartbreak. He struggles as a US citizen with an Irish brogue, red eyes, and bad teeth. He finds his own way. Mr. McCourt's storytelling kept me laughing. The history of it all is also interesting from his being drafted to entering the education profession as an English teacher in a 'Blackboard Jungle' classroom. I think I'll find a copy of Teacher Man and continue on.… (more)
LibraryThing member christinejoseph
Memoir of time in USA — schooling — no high school, odd jobs + College Degree
"2 Eyes Like Pissholes in the Snow" — way he talked @ his red eye disease
Mad about feeling Irish-Catholic — Drink in America — weakness — curse of race
Death of both parents ("I'm an orphan")
Felt a cheated childhood at funeral

Frank lands in New York at age nineteen, in the company of a priest he meets on the boat. He gets a job at the
Biltmore Hotel, where he immediately encounters the vivid hierarchies of this “classless country,” and then is drafted into the army and is sent to Germany to train dogs and type reports. It is Frank’s incomparable voice—his uncanny humor and his astonishing ear for dialogue—that renders these experiences spellbinding.

When Frank returns to America in 1953, he works on the docks, always resisting what everyone tells him, that men and women who have dreamed and toiled for years to get to America should “stick to their own kind” once they arrive. Somehow, Frank knows that he should be getting an education, and though he left school at fourteen, he talks his way into New York University. There, he falls in love with the quintessential Yankee, long-legged and blonde, and tries to live his dream. But it is not until he starts to teach—and to write—that Frank finds his place in the world. The same vulnerable but invincible spirit that captured the hearts of readers in Angela’s Ashes comes of age.
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