Jaywalking with the Irish by David Monagan

  • 17 November 2004
  • USA

“Jaywalking with the Irish is a hard, beautiful book about Ireland, written with love but facing head-on the darkness that rode in on the back of the Celtic Tiger. There are begrudgers and drunks in this tale and you wonder why the Monagans of comfortable Connecticut stayed in Cork at all. Well, that’s the story…David Monagan captures the country in detail and he does it with wit, charm and compassion. You won’t find a better or truer depiction of Ireland than this one.”   – Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes

What happens when you just do it, when in one comfortable Connecticut family’s case you drop everything and head off with kids to Ireland for, oh, one or three years, and perhaps a lifetime?

What the Monagans, fresh from the Volvo-purring perfection of the Connecticut hills found, was a world still whirling with madcap eccentricity and such abiding heart – not to mention singers in their kitchen in the middle of the night – that they were soon taken in as locals. Less easy to digest for readers of this by turns hilarious and withering tale is how profoundly the new Ireland differed from the Monagans’ dreams, what with drug addicts breaking through their windows in the night. The resultant narrative is the first nostalgia-free portrait of an Ireland throwing off ancient restraints and wrestling with its pace as the fastest growing economy in Europe.

The story’s richness owes to the author’s thirty years of past encounters – including posing as a Dublin psychiatrist – with that once bucolic land. But what he and his family discover upon landing in peculiar Cork City is an Ireland transformed, with girls sporting navel rings and BMWs spewing gravel at the last donkey carts, while twenty million extra pints go down the hatch every weekend Ireland hosts a big soccer match.

What a place to find a niche – sixteen bridges straddle the twin branches of the River Lee to the self-fabled Venice of Ireland, crammed with buskers and bizarre characters, and soon to be featured around the world as the European Union’s Capital of Culture for 2005, a heavily funded designation that will create 5,000 cultural events in the next 18 months.

Irish poet Tom McCarthy concludes,Jaywalking with the Irish is a great read and a celebration of Cork. It is also a better book  than….McCarthy’s Bar – at once more honest and human, while offering  a deeper conversation with Ireland and managing to be funny  in all the right places.”

About the author
David Monagan is a witty, incisive and painstakingly observant American writer, currently residing in Cork, Republic of Ireland. Born in Connecticut to a staunch Irish-American family, his life-long interest in Ireland was perhaps inescapable. David studies literature at Dublin’s Trinity College in 1973-74, and works as a freelance journalist for the Irish Times, Sunday Independent, Irish Examiner, Forbes, Smithsonian, Islands and World of Hibernia.