Summer Reading


Have you ever gone across the sea to Ireland? I have not, but friends who have made the crossing many times insist that Pete McCarthy’s McCarthy’s Bar (St. Martin’s Griffin, $16, 335 pp.) is the best and funniest travel guide to Ireland ever written. McCarthy leaves his home in England to search out the Ireland of his boyhood summers, to see if he “belongs” there, and I was happy to go along for the ride. He is charming company indeed, and his book is full of historical and archeological tidbits served up with buckets of scorn for shag carpeting, English reserve, baseball caps, fast food, and other assaults on the life well-lived. Keeping to his belief that you should “never pass a bar that has your name on it,” McCarthy visits many pubs and enjoys many a hooley, which I guess is Irish for a really wild all-night party. He crisscrosses the land in an ancient Volvo affectionately dubbed “the Tank,” finds his grandmother’s grave, learns about famine pits, and visits Yeats’s grave in Sligo. At a religious retreat on Lough Derg (a place of “extreme and rigorous pilgrimage”), he completes rituals of devotion and deprivation that have not changed for centuries. Mostly, however, McCarthy listens and observes. He tells you not where to go, but how to “be” in Ireland. Before he takes the ferry back to England, he...

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About the Author

Nicole Benevenia is the marketing coordinator of Commonweal.