A Return to Exile

In 1996, an obscure, retired New York schoolteacher named Frank McCourt published Angela's Ashes, the story of his childhood in Ireland. The book became a best seller, won a Pulitzer, was turned into a movieóand revolutionized the status of the memoir. Until then, the privilege of telling one's life story to a paying public had been the preserve of celebrities, but after Angela's Ashes, the memoir was thrown open to anyone, however young or unimportant. The point was no longer to pack a book with facts about your life (studied here, married there) but to produce a narrative, preferably of the...

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