A Monk Swimming

a book review

titleA Monk Swimming
authorMalachy McCourt
date reviewed1999.07.23
genreAutobiography
isbn0786884142

This is the very funny memoir of an American who grew up in Ireland and returned to find a land of wealth lying at his feet. It begins with his return to America in his early twenties, and follows his drunken rampages around the world in various capacities; as an actor of stage and screen, a bartender, bar owner, gold smuggler, and world class partier. Drunken, stinking, whoring smuggler he may have been, but a panick-stricken father, too, and a desperate, abandoned son.

The author's horror at his actions is clear in every passage, as is his clear awareness that his life as an absent, self-destructive father perfectly followed that of his own father, who wobbles blearilt into his son's adult life only once or twice.

This isn't an easy story to read, but it's a hell of a page-turner. With tales of desperate meetings in the filthiest cellars of Calcutta and equally surprising stories of the author's time amongst New York's elite (not to mention English Royalty), this is a scoundrel's tale that spans the full spectrum of society. It's also an excellent counterpoint to the stately, dignified story of childhood worry presented by the author's older brother Frank in Angela's Ashes.

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