McCann Reads from Transatlantic at Walt Whitman Writers Lecture
Award-winning writer Colum McCann (Let the Great World Spin, Zoli) gave a sneak peek of his forthcoming novel, Transatlantic, as the latest author to speak at St. Francis College for the Walt Whitman Writers Series on Wednesday, April 17.
Transatlantic covers three trips from America to Ireland over the span of 150 years, including the 1919 flight by John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown. McCann thoroughly researched the novel, going so far as to learn how to fly a plane to better understand Brown and Alcock's post-World War I adventure.
"That's the great thing about writing. You can write towards what you want to know. You can discover things that you didn't know about yourself," said McCann. "But you try to get it right and in the end the guys at the National Science Museum said that the account, the fictional account, the untrue account, is the truest account that they have come across yet. But there's plenty of stuff in that particular chapter, including fictional characters that are just hokum, things that are made up."
McCann adds that for him, the most important thing is, "to remain true to the texture of the time," and let people come to their own conclusions about the story.
The other two journeys in Transatlantic are from 1845 when black American slave Frederick Douglass visited Ireland to avoid being kidnapped by his owners who had threatened to make a "spectacle of his fame." The other part of the novel dates to 1998 when American senator George Mitchell crisscrossed the ocean to broken a lasting Irish peace.
The Walt Whitman Series is a continuation of St. Francis College's commitment to supporting Brooklyn's literary community. In addition to visits by these authors, the College also offers the biennial $50,000 St. Francis College Literary Prize. Submissions for the third Literary Prize Award are now closed with the winner to be announced at the next Brooklyn Book Festival in September. St. Francis helps sponsor and host a number of events for the Brooklyn Book Festival; giving students, faculty and the entire Brooklyn community a front row seat to some of the best and most diverse professional writers at work today.
McCann is the eighth writer to visit St. Francis for the Walt Whitman Series to share their work and writing experiences with students, faculty and the entire Brooklyn community. Previous authors include Ben Marcus, Dinaw Mengestu, Kate Christensen, Julie Orringer, Jonathan Lethem, Darcey Steinke, and Rick Moody.
Born in Dublin, Ireland, Colum McCann is the author of seven works of fiction, including the National Book Award–winning novel Let The Great World Spin (Random House 2009), Zoli (Random House 2007), and Dancer (Metropolitan Books 2003). He has been the recipient of many international honors, including the International Dublin Impac Prize, a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French government, election to the Irish arts academy, the 2010 Best Foreign Novel Award in China, and an Oscar nomination. He now lives in New York where he teaches in the Hunter College MFA Creative Writing program.
St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City's five boroughs and beyond.
St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201