Malachy picks up the family story--well, his part of it anyway--where older brother Frank left off in Angela's Ashes. The...

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A MONK SWIMMING: A Memoir

Malachy picks up the family story--well, his part of it anyway--where older brother Frank left off in Angela's Ashes. The McCourts lived in direst poverty in Limerick, Ireland, with their father (for whom Malachy was named) a charming but irresponsible drunk who deserted the family during WWII. In his own story, Malachy takes up matters with his arrival in New York City courtesy of Frank. After a brief stint in the army (about which he says almost nothing), Malachy becomes a longshoreman before drifting, almost inadvertently, into a dual career of raconteur-actor and minor-celebrity barkeep. And a raconteur he is; Malachy is the sort of professional Irishman who is trotted out to entertain the ""quality"" with his blarney-rich hijinks, songs, and drunken antics. In short, he's a somewhat more introspective (and better-read) version of his father. Therein lies the book's shortcoming. If readers are looking for the tormented and introspective recollections of Frank, they will be sorely disappointed. Malachy can spin a yam and he can pile on the clever euphemisms and circumlocutions of the tavern philosopher with the greatest of ease, but a rollicking, roistering, roaring boy like him cannot be expected to turn his eyes inward for more than a few tired apercus about what a bad husband and father he was. It's entirely appropriate that the two longest sections of the book are devoted to the collapse of his first marriage under the weight of his great thirsts and lusts, and a bizarre episode in which he smuggled gold ingots to India. The latter is more vividly told, a goofy adventure fueled by booze, but the former, by far the more important event, is recounted in a curdled tone of self-pity and self-flagellation. Sporadically amusing, but just as often infuriating. Malachy is the entertainer in the family, but Frank is the writer.

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1998