Title: McCarthy’s Bar
Author: Pete McCarthy
My edition: St. Martin’s Press Hardcover 2001
Borrowed from: Hoboken Public Library
Synopsis (from his website): Despite the many exotic places Pete McCarthy has visited, he finds that nowhere can match the particular magic of Ireland, his mother’s homeland. In McCarthy’s Bar, he journeys from Cork to Donegal. Travelling through spectacular landscapes, but at all times obeying the rule, Never Pass a Bar That Has Your Name On It, he encounters McCarthy’s Bar’s up and down the land, meeting fascinating, friendly and funny people before pleading to be let out at four o’clock in the morning.
Through adventures with English crusties who have colonised a desolate mountain; roots-seeking, buffet-devouring Americans; priests for whom the word ‘father’ has a loaded meaning; enthusiastic Germans who ‘here since many years holidays are making’; and his fellow barefoot pilgrims on an island called Purgatory, Pete pursues the secrets of Ireland’s global popularity and his own confused Irish-Anglo identity.
Written by someone who is at once both insider and outsider, McCarthy’s Bar is a wonderfully funny, affectionate portrait of a rapidly-changing country.
I read this because: I’m currently obsessed with any and all things concerning Ireland.
My thoughts: I loved this book. As far as armchair traveling goes, Pete McCarthy is an excellent companion/guide. Not only does he take you along for the ride as he meanders through the west of Ireland, he also explores the experience of feeling completely at home in a place that isn’t your homeland. I learned quite a bit about Irish culture and Ireland while reading it, and laughed a lot at his dark and witty humor infused into his stories.
Sadly, when I was googling Pete McCarthy to see if I could find him on Twitter or some links to good interviews, I found out he died in 2004. He was 51. He only wrote one other book; he didn’t get the chance to write the third book he had been planning.
Book club worthy? Mostly just a fun book to read on your own, but potential for some good discussion on whether or not you can feel a stronger attachment and kinship with the country of your ancestors than the country you were raised in.
Follow up required: I’d like to go to Ireland, as soon as possible. :) I’d also like to read his only other book, The Road to McCarthy. (Not to be confused in any way with The Road by Cormac McCarthy.)
You might like this book if you like: Bill Bryson
My favorite lines & passages:
There’s nothing like a couple of Italians staring at you to make you feel ashamed to be part of a nation that thinks polyester is a good fabric. (page 116)
Luckily I’ve trained myself over the years never to go anywhere without something to read, just in case someone turns up late, the meeting ends early, or I’m inadvertently imprisoned for 35 years and put in solitary confinement. (page 128)
The Celts believed that our world and the spirit world are very close, and that there are particular places of energy where the divide is very thin, and it’s possible to step across to the other side. (page 226)
I like reading in a pub rather than a library or study, as it’s generally much easier to get a drink. (page 258)
I think everyone has an inner voice, and we can all learn to listen to it. You don’t need to analyse where it comes from, but you can attune yourself to it. If you can learn to follow it, it will lead to fulfillment. That’s why I came here. (page 334)