Matt's Reviews > McCarthy's Bar: A Journey of Discovery In Ireland

McCarthy's Bar by Pete McCarthy
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's review
Jul 18, 2008

really liked it
Read in July, 2008

First, McCarthy generally finds himself tracking down pubs and tracking down historical sites, which is pretty much my favorite vacation pastime. Getting lost looking for an old stone circle and then staying up too late with the locals, stumbling into the B&B at three in the morning, is a heck of a fine vacation.

Second, the impetus for the book is based on his own identity crisis in the form of being half English and half Irish. Being the descendant of slaveowners and the target of a variety of pogroms, I think I relate to him well enough.

And furthermore, he also focuses a lot of his attention on the conflict between the New Ireland and the old, its rich cultural tradition (and poverty) versus its general Europeanization. And he has a nice handle on what makes Ireland worthwhile ("Once you cross the Shannon, most people still understand the crucial secret of human happiness: that it's better to do a few things slowly, than a lot of things fast.")

And yes, he makes great fun of Americans. I only wish he'd included photos of the Tweedles.

And its main drawback might actually be a strength, depending upon your perspective. In spite of its seeming culmination in his three-day fast, the book itself is totally non-linear. McCarthy wanders aimlessly, if not in his actual travel then certainly in his style of prose. It's not going to culminate in an epiphany, but it does make it easy to pick up and put down in between pints. Bookmark optional.

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