For some reason, I had a responsibility to my family and the people who lived around me. I felt that I had to convey their dignity - the way they dealt with adversity and poverty - and their good humor.
Even when I went to the Lion's Head in the Village, where all you journalists would hang out, I was always peripheral. I was never really part of anything except the classroom. That's where I belonged.
You're beginning to hear the tale of the common man and woman rather than the traditional memoir about the generals who just finished the war or the politicians who just rendered glorious service to the country.
He came to the States in 1963, I think with a view to making up with my mother, but that didn't work. He came for three weeks, and drank his way all over Brooklyn. And went back... I went to his funeral in Belfast.
We were supposed to stay over in Boston, but when Scribners heard I'd won the Pulitzer, they told me to get on a plane - that Katie Couric wanted my body. And when Katie Couric wants your body, you get moving right away.
For some reason, I wrote about the bed we slept in when I was a kid. It was a half-acre of misery, that bed, sagging in the middle, red hair sticking out of the mattress, the spring gone and the fleas leaping all over the place.
When I was a teacher, I'd walk into the classroom. I stood at the board. I was the man. I directed operations. I was an intellectual and artistic and moral traffic cop, and I - and I would direct the class, most of the time.
Autobiography should be more stringent. It should adhere more to the standards of journalism - assuming that journalism has the truth. The memoir gives you more scope, is more poetic, and allows you to play around with your own life.
If you have a class of 35 children, and they're all smiling, and there's one little bastard, and he's just staring at you as if to say 'Show me', then he's the one you think about going home on the train.
I wanted to avoid all that literary stuff. I didn't want the self pity of 'The Portrait,' all the moaning and the whingeing. I'm not knocking Joyce: we all owe him a debt. He's the one who made so much possible.
Certain citizens claimed I had disgraced the fair name of the city of Limerick, that I had attacked the church, that I had despoiled my mother's name, and that if I returned to Limerick, I would surely be found hanging from a lamppost.