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McCarthy's Bar: A Journey of Discovery In Ireland Paperback – March 3, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (March 3, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312311338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312311339
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,459 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Although Pete McCarthy was raised in England, his mother hails from West Cork and, despite never having lived there, he can't shake the strange feeling that Ireland is more home than home. A return pilgrimage reveals immediately why he (or anyone, for that matter) feels "involved and engaged" in Ireland. On arriving at the airport in Cork he's greeted by a guy in a giant rubber Celtic cross getup who's telling jokes with a latter-day St. Patrick (the guy who cast all snakes and pagans out of Ireland). Later, when McCarthy happens to mention that his surname matches that of the pub he's in (ever faithful to his Eighth Rule of Travel: Never pass a bar that has your name on it), the owner buys him a Guinness, invites him to her raucous all-night birthday party, then insists he move to Ireland because, well, obviously he belongs. McCarthy's Second Rule of Travel states: The more bright primary colours and ancient Celtic symbols outside the pub, the more phoney the interior. While the island is turning into a haven for upmarket tourists--and McCarthy offers outstanding examples of bumbleheaded tourists in action--he still finds plenty of pubs where you can buy a bicycle and which still exist primarily as venues for conversation and Irish music sessions.

While most travel writers seek out opportunities to meet the famous--or the infamous--McCarthy has the charming knack of just bumping into them on his rambles, which is how he met Noel Redding, formerly of Jimi Hendrix's band, and the author Frank McCourt. Far more interesting, though, are the eccentric and talkative bachelors and landladies who turn up in pubs, B&Bs, and the middle of the road. McCarthy has mastered the art of getting creatively lost, wandering the back lanes of Ireland where the hype of tourism has yet to arrive, pursuing stone circles, impossibly romantic ruined abbeys, and, of course, pubs. What he discovers is that "In Ireland, the unexpected happens more than you expect," which makes for a hilarious tour through one of the most beautiful, friendly, and quirky places on earth with a comedian who has honed the art of telling a good story and of having fun.--Lesley Reed --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

McCarthy, writer and performer of the BBC series Desperately Seeking Something, is a worthy addition to the ranks of P.J. O'Rourke, Bill Bryson and Peter Mayle. English-born to an Irish mother, McCarthy spent childhood summers with relatives in West Cork. As an adult, he travels around the south and west of Ireland on a quasi-pilgrimage culminating in a visit to Lough Derg, an ancient penitential retreat. Following the mandate "Never Pass a Bar That Has Your Name on It," he narrates a series of hilarious and surprising adventures with an acerbic eye and a comedian's gift for timing. Like all good travelers, he encounters an eclectic assortment of characters, including a pagan Christian priest who's rejected the Church, an Anglo-Irish Marquess, Jimi Hendrix's bass player Noel Redding, and Frank McCourt. Although occasionally indulging in tourist stereotyping--e.g., earnest Germans and loud, lazy Americans--McCarthy mines a rich comic vein, yielding delightful, often sidesplitting stories steeped in the peculiarities of British humor. He strikes some serious notes, too, adeptly capturing the impact of Ireland's recent social changes, from its astounding economic growth to the "bungalow blight" marring the beautiful countryside. He visits places where historic tragedies still loom large; his account of a mass grave for potato famine victims is simple and moving. This wonderful debut will appeal to readers who are looking for a well-observed travel guide, or simply for its incisive hilarity. (Mar. 19)Forecast: A bestseller in Ireland, this book will surely find an American audience if conspicuously displayed, given the Emerald Isle's current status as a hot vacation spot. The attractive cover photo of the author in front of an Irish bar is a plus.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

McCarthy had a great sense of humor and easy writing style.
Mo Collins
Of the many books I've read, this is one of the two or three books that have made me laugh both out loud and uncontrollably.
Mark R McTrustry
This is possibly one of the funniest and most blunt travel books I've ever read.
John D. Harvey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As a native Irishwoman I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish. Mr McCarthy definitely understands the Irish at their best and worst. He truly captures the Ireland and Irish of today and not the American version that includes scenes from The Quite Man or chapters from Angela's Ashes. I would recommend that anyone who is of Irish descent or plans to visit Ireland read this book it will give you a good understanding of the Irish people: were an irreverant, funny and unique bunch.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By bensmomma on December 13, 2004
Format: Paperback
Pete McCarthy and his aging Volvo, known as the Tank, spend a picaresque summer pottering around Ireland, flittering from pub to bed-and-breakfast to pub and back to another pub again. McCarthy's mother was Irish (although he himself was raised in England), and this fact has generated in him an Irish lilt to his prose, if not to his actual voice.

McCarthy's tone exactly captures an Irish skill for simultaneous disdain and affection for everyone he runs across. All tourists, including himself, are faintly (or more than faintly) ridiculous. McCarthy gets chased by cows while out looking for prehistoric Irish monoliths. He gets admonished by priests with spitshined brogans while on a barefoot 3-day fasting pilgrimage. He drinks a lot (a LOT), and for some odd reason, he seems to stop at every Chinese restaurant in Ireland.

If you can overlook McCarthy's paradoxically happy good-humored dislike of almost everything (and you should), you'll find the book funny, appealing, even charming. McCarthy would be a very entertaining fellow to run into at the pub. A perfect read in anticipation or in memory of your own vacation to Ireland.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Big Sky dweller on September 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
While it is old news, I just completed a google search to find out when Pete McCarthy might be releasing a new book. I was stunned and saddened to hear of his passing in October following an 8 month bout with cancer. I had no idea.

I loved this book. If you don't take yourself too seriously, nor are you one easily offended when someone takes the mickey out of the Irish, then you too will find yourself howling as you read Mr. McCarthy's observations. Look at the reviews. Obviously, Pete McCarthy was not for everyone. I however, thought he was the most hilarious travel writer out there. It is one of those books that I can pass along to someone and say, "If you don't think this is funny, then we have absolutely nothing in common."

Next time I'm in a pub, I'll steal a quiet moment, say a small prayer, drink one for Pete McCarthy and look for something completely absurd happening around me. Rest in peace Mr. McCarthy.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Steven Lagoe on June 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I was unsure about buying this book, but for the price I thought "what the hell!"
I opened it and read the first sentence on the bus...what a mistake! I roared with laughter, much to the chagrin of my fellow travellers who weren't sharing in my experience. For your information, the first sentence is: "The harp player had just fallen off the stage and cracked his head on the Italian tourist's pint." Another sentence, and this is only from the prologue, I haven't even reached the first chapter yet, is: "At one point, the harp player fell off again, only backwards."
This book is an amazing insight into the Irish way of life, and those who visit Ireland, by one who desperately wants to discover his Irish roots.
Pete McCarthy is an astute and accurate observer.
If you found the sentences I've quoted humorous, this book will have you in stitches.
I'm not one to roar out loud to a book, but this one creased me up time and time again.
For the craic, if nothing else, buy it!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By John McKenna on June 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As an Irishman living in the US I often encounter misty-eyed Americans who long to visit "the ould sod". Seldom, if ever, do these hapless travelers have any idea of the magnitude of the departure from their sensible and predictable life state-side that they will encounter in their idealized mental vision of the Emerald Isle.
This book provides a Windex clean window through which to peer at the idiosyncratic Irish (and would-be Irish) that dwell within McCarthy's Bar.
I never dreamt I would read a belly laff review of a place such as Lough Derg, that stark, brutal and monastic bastion of Irish Catholicism in the wilds of Donegal.
I recommend this book to anyone who dares to remove the shamrock-green colored glasses before venturing forth to meet the larger than life, hilarious (to some) characters that will inevitably be encountered in the unpredictable terrain of economic boom Ireland.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sailoil on July 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
Pete McCarthy is a highly skilled comic writer. This book had me in stitches with great belly laughs throughout. Born to an Irish Mother, but growing up in Warrington, he can adopt both an insiders and an outsiders perspective of life in Ireland.

McCarthy finds humour in the simplest of things. He points out how his home town of Warrington is an unlikely place for Irish imigrants, being the home of Oliver Cromwell, scourge of the Irish.

As he says himself, his "research" for this book was far from unenjoyable, involving as it did long trips to ireland, days on end spent in pubs chatting to locals and tourists and downing copious amounts of alcohol.

He gives us the secret for measuring the level of value or rip-off you face in any town in Ireland - the singapore noodle index.

He spends a lot of his time when outside of pubs or bed and breakfasts searching for neolithic and pre-celtic monuments. He trudges up lonely hillsides searching for standing stones and stone circles, avoiding where he can the ones that contain a tourist office or interpretive centre. He brings you to realise the depth of history that lies around every bend and on every hill in Ireland. He also points out in the most gentle way that the Irish walk over, abuse and even paint over this unique heritage, often without knowing what it is.

Along the way McCarthy meets Americans, Italians, Germans and English touring or living in Ireland and manages to cram in plenty of hilarious national stereotypes into his encounters. I especially like the story of the German taxi driver in West Cork, who came for the relaxed lifestyle, but insists on to the second punctuality from his fares. Give him time I say, we'll wear it out of him.
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