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A Monk Swimming A Memoir Paperback – June 2, 1999

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books; First Edition edition (June 2, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786884142
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786884148
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (219 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #607,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Taking up where brother Frank left off, McCourt recounts his early days in New York. The title comes from McCourt's youthful misunderstanding of the phrase amongst women in the Hail Mary.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

Now, this sounded just a little bit contrived to me.
William Hughes
After listening on tape to Angela's Ashes and Tiz, which was narrated by Frank McCourt, I couldn't wait to listen to "A Monk Swimming".
Debra M
I should not have wasted both the money and time in purchasing and reading this lousy book.
Vincent Chow

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Michael D. Weiss on August 29, 1998
Format: Hardcover
While many have made the mistake of comparing Malachy McCourt's adult memoir, A MONK SWIMMING, to his brother Frank's more tragic childhood recount in the Pulitzer Prize-winning ANGELA'S ASHES, I preferred reading the book on a completely separate level. As this younger brother's memoir is in a sense a continuation of the McCourt saga, which picks up from a different perspective on the hopeful ending of ASHES, it is a story of a different time, place and person, bereft of most of the second-hand misery that accompanied the 362 pages of Frank's heart-wrentching tale.
The character worries of ANGELA'S ASHES included surviving famine, tuburculosis and the general abominations of poverty. A MONK SWIMMING grapples mainly with the issues of managing an acting sometime career, excessive pubbing and sordid sexual conquests and the more literarily comical debacles derived from such.
Lacking the degree of drama, this book has perhaps been thought of as a disappointment in the wake of its seeming predecessor. Yet judged on its own merits and intentions, A MONK SWIMMING is a terrific piece altogether, told with all the heart and lilt that apparently runs strong in the McCourt clan. Malachy chronicles the charming, wily escapades of an unapologetic drunk--himself--in this, a story about an Irish immigrant living (and occasionally thriving) in America. His wit and style are a wonderful amalgam of Irish irony and lyricism with New York abrasiveness and sophistication.
There IS a tragic element to this narrative, however, in that Malachy proves to be much like his wretch of a father (for whom he was conveniently named), a man who oftentimes put the bottle before the family.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
In "A Monk Swimming," Malachy McCourt recounts stories of his less-than-mature response to his awful childhood. His brother Frank, on the other hand, gives us a more refined, crafted, and artistic story. Both versions are worth reading. It's interesting to see how two related people emerged so differently from the same circumstances.
I like that Malachy McCourt gives no excuses for his behavior. He's a pretty objective recorder of his exploits; he doesn't pretty them up. He admits he drank too much, abandoned his wife and kids, and searched for some peace (unsuccessfully) through sex. He doesn't glorify himself; at the end, I was left with sadness. He closes with a description of his father and the pain of that relationship. This final chapter is the explanation (though not an excuse) for the rest of the exploits in the book.
Frank McCourt is the philosopher while Malachy is the bad kid who has no qualms about telling it like it is. When I read Malachy's version of McCourt history, I thought, 'Ok, poverty is not some romantic world where everyone ends up spouting gorgeous poetry and coming to terms with their past.' Malachy has humor, audacity, and a flare for hyperbole - all these the qualities of a good Irish storyteller. These are stories I could imagine hearing while sitting a bar - stories that are enlarged and enhanced upon each telling. Malachy clearly captures a time and place and a character (himself). Some might not like who he is, but he provides a vivid picture of who he is. He captures, by recounting his escapades, his own tortured response to his childhood.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Ramos VINE VOICE on February 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is the memoirs of the larger than life, hard-drinking Malachy McCourt. Born in America, rasied in Ireland and then back to New York as an teen. He made a name for himself in New York city as the first celebrity bartender. He was a social mixer, a writer, an actor of stage and screen. His gift for blarney made him a regular on the Tonight Show.
This book is darkly funny. And a bit raw in places, so be warned. But he does tell his story with passion, wit, irreverence and charm. This was a fun read.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By V Ryan on December 27, 1999
Format: Paperback
Few people can hope to experience the fun & wild times of Malachy McCourt, in spite of his underpriveleged up-bringing. His life would have been interesting enough, but his literary style is exciting, making it difficult to put the book down. His colorful descriptions put you right there with him. When he's drunk, you feel drunk; when he describes the filth and stench of a public restroom in India, you can see & smell it. Malachy McCourt takes you on a wild ride through his life, and makes you wonder whether you've done enough in your own life.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Daniel V. Reilly VINE VOICE on March 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
Being half Irish myself, I'm pretty sick of seeing the Irish portrayed as drunken louts. So imagine how surprised I was to find that the loveable little Malachy I read about in Angela's Ashes had come to America as a teen and become a drunken troublemaker.
The book lovingly recounts McCourt's many (VERY MANY) drunken rampages through New York, Ireland, Calcutta (Smuggling Gold), and London, drinking, whoring, and making trouble in stereotypical fashion. I didn't take long for me to start hating Malachy; Watching him float through life, mooching off of others, never doing an honest day's work, drinking up other people's money...it was sickening. But compelling. It was tough to see him repeating the mistakes of his Father.
But....he does tell a good story, and he had an unusual life, that's for sure. There are some funny moments, and overall, despite my distaste for him as a person, the book is worth reading for people who are interested in the McCourt Family.
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