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A Monk Swimming: A Memoirby Malachy McCourt
Synopses & Reviews
In 1952, traveling steerage, Malachy McCourt left a childhood of poverty in Limerick, Ireland, heading for the promise of America. This is the story of what he brought with him, and what he thought he left behind.
Armed with savage humor and a gift for story-telling, fueled by rage and the desire never to go hungry again, he ran from memories of a drunken, vanished father and the humiliations of Angela, his mother.
He arrived in New York, reminiscent of a Damon Runyon saga — a dark, glittering place, with saloons on every corner, and a new story waiting every night. Larger than life, a world-class drinker, McCourt carved out a place for himself: in the saloons, as the first celebrity bartender, mixing with socialites, writers and movie stars; on stage, performing the works of James Joyce and Brendan Behan; and on television, where the tales he spun made him a Tonight Show regular.
He had money and women and, eventually, children of his own; and that's when he found he had not left his memories as far behind as he had thought. From the notorious Tombs prison of New York City, to poolside arrests in Beverly Hills; in the company of gold-smuggling in Zurich and whores in Calcutta; from Paris, to Rome, and to Limerick once more, McCourt fled again, until he had no choice but to stop and turn and face his past.
"You might want to give Malachy's work a good leaving alone unless you're willing to have others gawk at you as you laugh out loud at the world he offers up as well as the life he's lived, loaded down with fun." Boston Globe
"...Malachy is outrageous and comic....[a] funny, oddly winning book." Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times
"[A] highly entertaining book with some great moments, and it will certainly be of interest to anyone eager to learn more about the McCourts." San Francisco Chronicle
"It is an entertaining story excruciatingly told." Time
"If readers are looking for the tormented and introspective recollections of Frank, they will be sorely disappointed....Malachy is the entertainer in the family, but Frank is the writer." Kirkus Reviews
"A Monk Swimming is a delight not just as a successor to Angela's Ashes but on terms entirely its own." Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Irresistible...equal parts pathos and belly laughs." People
"A rollicking good read that, as the Irish say, would make a dead man laugh." Philadelphia Inquirer
Slapped with a libel suit after an appearance on a talk show, Malachy McCourt crows, "If they could only see me now in the slums of Limerick, a big shot, sued for a million. Bejesus, isn't America a great and wonderful country?" His older brother Frank's Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, Angela's Ashes, took its somber tone from the bleak atmosphere of those slums, while Malachy's boisterous recollections are fueled by his zestful appreciation for the opportunities and oddities of his native land. He and Frank were born in Brooklyn, moved with their parents to Ireland as children, then returned to the States as adults. This book covers the decade 1952-63, when Malachy roistered across the U.S., Europe, and Asia, but spent most of his time in New York City. There his ready wit and quick tongue won him an acting job with the Irish Players, a semiregular stint on The Tonight Show hosted by Jack Paar, and friendships with some well-heeled, well-born types who shared his fondness for saloon life and bankrolled him in an East Side saloon that may have been the first singles bar. He chronicles those events--and many others--with back-slapping bonhomie. Although McCourt acknowledges the personal demons that pursued him from his poverty-stricken childhood and destroyed his first marriage, this is on the whole an exuberant autobiography that pays tribute to the joys of a freewheeling life.
About the Author
Malachy McCourt is a writer and actor who has had numerous featured roles on stage, television, and screen, including such films as The Devil's Own, She's the One, and Bonfire of the Vanities. He is happily married, the father of five children, and the grandfather of three. He lives in New York City.
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