Kevin Grandfield (review date 1 March 1998)
SOURCE: "Upfront: Advance Reviews," in Booklist, March 1, 1998, p. 1043.
[The following review provides a sketch of the contents of A Monk Swimming.]
Coat-tailing the success of brother and performance partner Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes (1996), Malachy [McCourt] weighs in with his own memoir, recounting his raucous early days in the U.S. Picking up after the childhood so vividly described in Angela's Ashes, A Monk Swimming (a mishearing of the Hail Mary phrase "Blessed art thou amongst women") recounts the unlikely tales of Malachy's serendipitous success as an actor and a bar owner after arriving in New York penniless and uneducated. Amidst tales of his drinking and general carousing with the likes of Peter O'Toole, Richard Burton, Jack Paar, and Robert Mitchum, Malachy also tells of his unexpected meeting with the queen of England, rooming with a psychotic socialite, and disastrous first marriage and inability to accept its demise. By far the most interesting section is the vivid portrayal of smuggling gold bars from Zurich to India, which he did when desperate for a job. The language and storytelling have the indelible Irish lilt and genius for irony. They range from understated to downright scatological, and they are always paced for maximum payoff. The success of Frank's book and the huge media blitz for this one should make it a much-requested title, but those who appreciated the profundity of Angela's Ashes will be disappointed by this less meaty memoir.