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McCarthy's Bar: A Journey of Discovery in Ireland [Paperback]

Pete McCarthy
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 3 2003

The #1 Irish Bestseller

Despite the many exotic places Pete McCarthy has visited, he finds that nowhere else can match the particular magic of Ireland, his mother's homeland.  In McCarthy's Bar, his journey begins in Cork and continues along the west coast to Donegal in the north. Traveling through spectacular landscapes, but at all times obeying the rule, "never pass a bar that has your name on it," he encounters McCarthy's bars up and down the land, meeting fascinating people before pleading to be let out at four o'clock in the morning. 

Written by someone who is at once an insider and an outside, McCarthy's Bar is a wonderfully funny and affectionate portrait of a rapidly changing country.


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Product Description

From Amazon

The premise of Pete McCarthy's first book, McCarthy's Bar, is that you should never pass up the opportunity of having a drink in a bar that shares your name. There is clearly more to this plan than the obvious publicity stunt, since it could work with books as well--try reading Cormac McCarthy after reading this hilarious, informed and intelligent book, and you may well be tempted to buy books by every other McCarthy around.

Born in Warrington, Pete McCarthy decides to go back to rural Ireland, to rediscover his Irishness. The feeling that you have heard this sort of thing all before doesn't last for long. There is a serious writer struggling to make himself heard above the many excellent jokes and this is what makes McCarthy's book so distinctive. Although he can crack Brysonesque quips with the best of them ("I've often wondered how businessmen used to cope before [mobile phones] were invented. How did they tell their wives they were on the train?"), and take us through hilarious and largely drunken set-pieces, McCarthy is equally at home discussing Celtic standing stones and the potato famine.

The resulting book is a wonderful debut. By the end, we, too, would like to move to Ireland. You sense that McCarthy has such a genuine feeling for Ireland, Irishness and Irish history that he can only temper his writing with side-splitting humour. In this way, his first book successfully embodies much of what it is to be Irish. --Toby Green --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Is this where the sandwich dressing comes from ? June 24 2007
Format:Paperback
Pete McCarthy was actually born Peter Charles McCarthy Robinson in Warrington, a town in the north-west of England. He was the eldest son of an Irish mother, who'd moved to England to work as a nurse. Naturally, there was an Irish influence on his upbringing : he was educated by the Christian Brothers and, in his childhood, spent his summer holidays with his mother's family in West Cork. Before moving into travel writing, Pete had worked on television, and adopted his mother's maiden name to avoid confusion with another actor. (It also spared him from sharing a name with a noted Northern Irish politician - who, unlike our author - has no great love for the Irish Republic). "McCarthy's Bar" was his first book, and follows his travels through Cork, Kerry and up the west coast to his eventual destination : the dreaded pilgramage on Lough Derg. (It's, therefore, not entirely set in pubs owned by people called McCarthy - but you weren't seriously expecting that anyway, where you ?).

I haven't read a lot of travelogues, but - up until now - I've made a point of avoiding those set in Ireland. I've flicked through one or two, and have been left with the impression that people who write travelogues - though they come close at time - don't quite 'get' the Irish. McCarthy, on the other hand, does a great job and sometimes 'gets' us a little too well. He sometimes wanders a little off-topic and, once in a while, includes some relevant childhood memory or the occasional random thought. (The possiblility of genetic memory is something he puzzles over more than once, and he briefly notes the contribution of the Irish to Australia's sporting successes). He touches occasionally on the Irish - English relationship, though (wisely) doesn't try to explain it, while other tourists provide a few laughs...
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4.0 out of 5 stars Funny, acquired taste for an American reader March 31 2004
Format:Paperback
Pete McCarthy's style quickly reminded me of America's P. J. O'Rourke, who has made a significant contribution to humorous travel writing. McCarthy is English-Irish and his affinity for his roots shows through his writing. He looks for and finds humor in the little things about travel - talk radio, second-hand cars, hitch hikers, tourist traps, off-the-beaten-path finds, bad food, good company, pleasant and unpleasant surprises, nosy hoteliers, apparent (to McCarthy and the reader, at least) ironies, rapid changes in the weather, obnoxious tourists, embedded cultural curiosities, and, well, you get the picture.
For an American reader, some of the history, terms, and geographic references are not unexpectedly foreign. Some humor and lessons are lost in the 'translation'. And McCarthy is pretty hard on American tourists in Ireland, although not noticeably harder on them than on other foreigners searching for quaint elements of Irish tradition or cheap land to buy. Hippies, yuppie Englishmen, rich Germans, and other demographic and ethnic groups earn his disbelief and, often, mild contempt. He catalogs the changes he has seen in Ireland in his lifetime, and many of them are not pretty. The Celtic Tiger has lost some of its charm and sold out some of its character to tourism and those eager to buy inexpensive land.
Consistently observant, funny and insightful, my one, major negative from the book is that it left me much less likely to visit Ireland. There may still be a chance to save the country from foreign invaders, so I'll do my part.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thanks for the memories Dec 31 2003
Format:Paperback
I noticed "McCarthy's Bar" in the bookstore shortly before I left for a two-week ramble around Ireland. I put off buying it until I was back from my travels, then I sought it out. Several years separated my travels from Pete McCarthy's but I swear we met some of the same people, stayed in the same guesthouses, had the same reactions and frustrations and giggles, and felt the same blood-deep affection for the country and its people, natives and others alike. Reading through this book (and doing so slowly because I didn't want the journey to end) was like reading my own journal from a slightly different perspective. McCarthy immediately joins Bill Bryson and Tim Cahill on my shelf of worthwhite and recommended travel writers: the real ones...not the jet-setters who stay in posh hotels and view their chosen destinations through a motorcoach window with precisely timed stops for tea in tourist-approved establishments, but the ones who immerse themselves amongst the locals, sometimes unsuccessfully and with startling results, and write about their experiences with humor and healthy self-spoofing.
If you have any desire to hop over to Ireland, rent a car, and careen off down the back roads (i.e., most any Irish road) to see what you'll see, you'll enjoy "McCarthy's Bar."
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1.0 out of 5 stars Big Disappointment Aug. 24 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
There are two glaring errors with Mr. McCarthy's book. One, it is in bad need of an editor - not to clear typos or misspelling but because it deviates into irrelevant anecdotes that fail to build around his travels in Ireland. A good editor would have reduced this book into either a magazine article or short story. If he tried to pull off a Joyce's stream of consciousness, a la Ulysses, he fails.
The more troubling error is that Mr. McCarthy incorrectly describes the Irish. Any antipathy that the Irish feel towards the English, whether warranted or not, is perpetuated by Mr. McCarthy's fallaciousness. And just because he spent a few summers in West Cork when he was a child and has an Irish surname does not mean he is an insider as the back cover of his book claims. You are an English tourist, full stop. What's next, a book on Boston because your surname is Irish and you have been to a Paddy's Day parade which qualifies you as Bostonian insider?
I wish this book had come with a money back guarantee. Hollywood does a better job at describing Ireland than Mr. McCarthy, and that's not saying much.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Too sarcastic to be funny...
I gave up reading it by page 100 -- it was boring and pointless! The author has a very cutting and sarcastic humour which I found kind of mean -- it doesn't paint the Irish in a... Read more
Published on March 1 2012 by Pat the cat
4.0 out of 5 stars Hilariously funny and refreshingly honest about the Irish.
This review is for the hardcover edition measuring 9 1/2 X 6 1/4 and having 338 pages and NOT 1 SINGLE PHOTO! Read more
Published on Aug. 6 2010 by Wayne Cooper
5.0 out of 5 stars Laugh out loud fun..with insight
It's not often I'm laughing out loud all through a book. As someone toying with an Irish pilgrimage this book has given me things to ponder. Read more
Published on Feb. 20 2004 by S. Welsh
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a book for the uptight reader
This is an easy hilarious trip by someone who sees life as a joy. Some of the negative reviews are possibly by people who are ultra PC. Read more
Published on Feb. 17 2004 by Brian W Beck
5.0 out of 5 stars Very funny and accurate
If you've spent any time in Ireland, you will laugh at loud at this book. And for those who haven't been to Ireland, it offers interesting insight.
Published on Jan. 29 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars pretty accurate
I've read the other reviews - they are mostly very good. I can see why - there are a lot of laughs in this book and it is accurate. Read more
Published on Dec 23 2003 by mkirksmith
5.0 out of 5 stars A laugh out loud book
Started to read this book, belonging to our hostess, in Ireland. We laughed out loud so much that we ran out and bought a copy of each of Pete McCarthy's books. Read more
Published on Nov. 16 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Captures the experience of a trip around the West
When I saw the two miserable reviews below from Irish readers I had to counter with a positive one. This is an hilarious read. Read more
Published on Nov. 10 2003 by Rich Rennicks
5.0 out of 5 stars I laughed 'til it hurt
I think the important thing to know about this book, is that it requires a very dry sense of humour. And it certainly helps if you know the author. Read more
Published on Oct. 3 2003 by Mark R McTrustry
5.0 out of 5 stars Laugh Out Loud Funny
If you have read Bill Bryson (run! find A Walk In the Woods by Bryson if you haven't), you will love McCarthy. His mastery of situational humor is unsurpassed. Read more
Published on Sept. 29 2003
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