It is, of course, naïve to expect total reconciliation. Some grievances are so deep that the people who suffered them will never be satisfied. But the point is not satisfaction — the point is that the present is superior to the past, and it has to be cultivated as such.
Major League Soccer put together a nice video to accompany the audio of Colum McCann reading his poem, “Robbie Keane.”
I am interested in the idea of who owns history and who has a right to tell it. The smaller, more anonymous moments are the glue of history. We have a responsibility to what some might call the ‘little guy.’ Often the little guy is a woman, in fact. Women are often excluded from the history books. As if guns and testosterone rule the world.
These historical figures do not come to life on the page. They are little more than ideas and the roles they must play to advance McCann’s novelistic scheme. We never enter their marrow because they are little more than dots awaiting connection. Fortunately, McCann returns to form in the second half of the novel — the female half — telling the stories of several generations of women, some of whom were introduced as minor characters in the first half. Now we’re inside a Civil War hospital, we’re learning how ice was harvested in the 19th century and what the streets of St. Louis looked and sounded like. Our guides through these worlds are the remarkable women who descended from Lily Duggan, a maid in the house where Douglass stayed during his Irish sojourn, a woman who made her own trans-Atlantic crossing to America in 1846 to escape the coming famine.
Bill Morris reviews Colum McCann’s latest, TransAtlantic.
I’ve been writing about ‘real’ characters and placing them in a shaped, or fictional, world. Writing TransAtlantic, there was never really a plan, at the early stages, to question the line between fiction and nonfiction. I just went on instinct, and then these worlds started to braid.
The Rumpus interviews Colum McCann.
I figured I might write a play in a bar, as if it had never been done before, as if it were some sort of revolutionary act, so I listened to my countrymen and wrote notes. Theirs was a loneliness pasted upon loneliness. It struck me that distant cities are designed precisely so you can know where you came from. We bring home with us when we leave. Sometimes it becomes more acute for the fact of having left.