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McCourt to deliver lecture

Claire Heininger | Thursday, October 16, 2003

Frank McCourt, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his poignant autobiography “Angela’s Ashes,” will discuss his life experiences and share his literary expertise tonight when he delivers the 20th annual Red Smith Lecture in Journalism at Notre Dame.

The lecture, entitled “From Copybook to Computer: What You Write on and How You Do It,” will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Hesburgh Library’s Carey Auditorium, said Robert Schmuhl, director of the Notre Dame John W. Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy and professor of American Studies.

“For a number of years, Frank McCourt has been known as a tremendous stylist, and the Red Smith Lecture series has always emphasized good writing,” Schmuhl said. “Much of his career has been devoted to teaching good writing, and recently he has been practicing many of these arts himself.”

Such arts came to life in McCourt’s critically acclaimed and popularly received memoirs, which include “Angela’s Ashes,” a narrative of his Depression-era Irish immigrant background, and “‘Tis,” which chronicles his return to America at the age of 19.

“Angela’s Ashes” achieved New York Times hardcover best-seller status and held the distinction for 117 weeks after its publication in January 1997. It quickly earned the National Book Critics’ Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Award as well as the Pulitzer Prize for biography.

“Tis” also achieved a strong reception among critics and readers alike, attaining the position of best-selling nonfiction hardcover in the nation in November 2000.

“Angela’s Ashes” simultaneously occupied the same position for paperbacks for several weeks.

Before writing his memoirs, McCourt taught writing at the prominent Stuyvesant High School in New York City for 17 years. He is currently writing a book about his teaching career.

McCourt’s talk will mark the 20th anniversary of the Red Smith Lecture in Journalism, which was first established in 1983 to honor 1927 Notre Dame graduate Walter “Red” Smith, famed sportswriter and New York Times columnist whose accomplishments included the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

The Smith Lectureship is administered by the John W. Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy, and aims to attract speakers who represent the strongest writing and the highest standards in the journalism field. Previous lecturers have included James Kilpatrick, Art Buchwald, Ted Koppel and Jim Lehrer.

Universal Press Syndicate plans to publish McCourt’s lecture and distribute it to several thousand journalists and educators later this year.