June 29, 1998 12:00 PM

by Malachy McCourt

Beach book of the week

Back when Frank McCourt was still a little-known high school English teacher, his little brother Malachy was the better-known McCourt, having already made a name for himself as a radio talk show host, raconteur and roistering man about Manhattan. Now, picking up where Frank left off in his lyrical, Pulitzer Prize-winning Angela’s Ashes, Malachy gives us A Monk Swimming—the title comes from a mishearing of the Hail Mary phrase, “Blessed art thou amongst women”—a memoir as exuberant as Frank’s is contemplative.

Malachy’s yarn begins with his arrival from Ireland in 1952 at age 20. He nightwalks through a number of occupations—longshoreman, actor, gold smuggler and saloonkeeper at Gotham’s celebrity-studded Malachy’s, where his rowdy charm gains him a raft of boozing buddies and fame as a regular on The Jack Paar Tonight Show. But money and drink—too much of the latter, not enough of the former—bedevil him. His wife leaves him, and Malachy descends into a series of hilarious misadventures, including a bedroom caper in Ibiza, Spain, with a German aristocrat whose name he remembers as “Baroness von Sausagelink—or something.” The book’s unifying force—and McCourt’s saving grace—is his self-deprecating humor and boisterous love of the mother tongue. (Hyperion, $23.95)

Bottom Line: An irresistible memoir that’s equal parts pathos and belly laughs

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