Video from a Live Talks Los Angeles event featuring Colum McCann discussing his novel, Transatlantic, with Carolyn Kellogg of the Los Angeles Times. Event was held June 18th at the William Turner Gallery at Bergamot Station. For more information on Live Talks Los Angeles, visit: livetalksla.org
Colum McCann is the bestselling author of the novels Let the Great World Spin, Zoli, Dancer, This Side of Brightness, and Songdogs, as well as two critically acclaimed story collections. His fiction has been published in thirty-five languages. Among his honors: the National Book Award, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French government, and the Ireland Fund of Monaco Literary Award in Memory of Princess Grace. He has been named one of Esquire’s “Best & Brightest,” and his short film Everything in This Country Must was nominated for an Oscar in 2005. A contributor to the New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, and Paris Review, he teaches in the Hunter College MFA Creative Writing Program.
McCann’s new novel spans continents, leaps centuries, and unites a cast of deftly rendered characters, both real and imagined.
Newfoundland, 1919. Two aviators—Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown—set course for Ireland as they attempt the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean, placing their trust in a modified bomber to heal the wounds of the Great War.
Dublin, 1845 and ’46. On an international lecture tour in support of his subversive autobiography, Frederick Douglass finds the Irish people sympathetic to the abolitionist cause—despite the fact that, as famine ravages the countryside, the poor suffer from hardships that are astonishing even to an American slave.
New York, 1998. Leaving behind a young wife and newborn child, Senator George Mitchell departs for Belfast, where it has fallen to him, the son of an Irish-American father and a Lebanese mother, to shepherd Northern Ireland’s notoriously bitter and volatile peace talks to an uncertain conclusion.
These three iconic crossings are connected by a series of remarkable women whose personal stories are caught up in the swells of history. Beginning with Irish housemaid Lily Duggan, who crosses paths with Frederick Douglass, the novel follows her daughter and granddaughter, Emily and Lottie, and culminates in the present-day story of Hannah Carson, in whom all the hopes and failures of previous generations live on. From the loughs of Ireland to the flatlands of Missouri and the windswept coast of Newfoundland, their journeys mirror the progress and shape of history. They each learn that even the most unassuming moments of grace have a way of rippling through time, space, and memory.
Carolyn Kellogg is a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times. She writes about books and he publishing industry. She previously interviewed Carl Hiaasen at Live Talks Los Angeles.