McCarthy's Bar

Pete McCarthy

McCarthy's Bar

By now, all you faithful readers are used to the rather eclectic choices of books that appear in this column. There may be those among you, however, who will heave a sigh of relief when you realize that your writer decided not to include here a review of a book dealing with forensic science, choosing instead to regale her readers with another look at one of your editors' favorite places, Ireland. To wit, McCarthy's Bar. Subtitled “A Journey of Discovery in Ireland,” this book is less a travel narrative than an autobiography, and an amusing one, at that. The book's jacket sums it up thusly:

“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 outsider, McCarthy's Bar is a wonderfully funny and affectionate portrait of a rapidly changing country.”

Ireland may be changing, but there is still about the place a sense of the unreal, as this passage reveals:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that you cannot make a road movie in England. Everywhere is too close to everywhere else. By mid-afternoon on Day One, you'll just run out of road and have to turn back. But in America, spiritual home of the road movie, there is space into infinity, you can drive for a week, and the road just goes on for ever.

At first glance, the distances involved in traversing the west of Ireland might seem small, yet paradoxically this would be prime road movie territory, Kerouacesque or Wenderish in its potential. Here you can drive all day and the road still goes on for ever, because for large parts of it you will be driving at twenty miles an hour behind an agricultural conveyance. You will also have the benefit of a wealth of wrong turnings to choose from, an option not available when you're sitting motionless outside Birmingham in the centre lane of the M6 motorway on a Friday night. Thelma and Louise could have escaped to Connemara instead of Arizona, and had more fun into the bargain, but they wouldn't have got much joy in the West Midlands of England.”

Your editors can attest to this peculiar state of affairs, having driven in Ireland on a couple of occasions. The country, nonetheless, retains an undeniable charm, as does McCarthy's Bar, and we can't wait to go back again. Be sure to read all about it!

Copyright © 2003, S. Halversen.
All Rights Reserved.