Raconteurial outings, beery and otherwise, from a professional Irishman.
Malachy, the lesser talent of the McCourt brothers—his A Monk Swimming (1998) falls far short of Frank’s Angela’s Ashes (1996), even if neither is likely to squeeze James Joyce off the shelf—returns with the second installment of his memoirs. A Monk Swimming described McCourt’s rise as a celebrity bartender at a succession of well-populated New York pubs, along with his simultaneous decline as a husband and father. Here we see the author’s arrival as a bit actor in movies and soap operas, where he specialized in stories calling for a colorful Irishman who knew how to pull a tap. The by-now trademark style is cheerful if sometimes blustery, and almost certainly works better in person than on the page. The tale begins in 1963 with McCourt facing divorce after years of bad behavior; it carries on with his finding a new and true love (to whom he’s been married for the last 35 years); and it is continually topped up with additional tales of swilling and palling around with the likes of Sean Connery and Richard Harris and enduring one hangover after another. The bad-boy stuff ends about two-thirds of the way in, however, when Malachy faces a medical scare and decides to quit drinking. Afterwards, although he’s as proud and boisterous and mellifluous as ever (while playing a small role in The Field on location in Ireland, he writes, “not once did I take Guinness, the wine of Ireland, into the gullet, nor did I put the whiskey into the system, not a small victory”), he tends to pepper his narrative with 12-step truisms, and with an unaccustomed level of self-reflection that’s wholly at odds with his earlier persona.
Fans will find this less interesting than McCourt’s first outing, but still worth an evening or two.