Colum McCann

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Colum McCann
Colum McCann Speaking2.jpg
May 2009 – Lyon, France
Born Colum McCann
(1965-02-28) 28 February 1965 (age 50)
Dublin, Ireland
Occupation Writer
Language English
Nationality Irish, American
Education Journalism
Alma mater Dublin Institute of Technology
Genre Literary fiction
Literary movement Postmodern literature
Notable works Let the Great World Spin,
Notable awards Rooney Prize

Novel of the Year Award

National Book Award

International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

Colum McCann (born 28 February 1965) is an Irish writer of literary fiction. He was born in Dublin, Ireland and now lives in New York. He is a Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing in the Master of Fine Arts program at Hunter College, New York[1] with fellow novelists Peter Carey and Claire Messud, and has visited many universities and colleges all over the world, including the European Graduate School.[2]

His work has been published in 35 languages[3] and has appeared in the New Yorker, Esquire, Paris Review, as well in several other places. He has written for the New York Times, Esquire, Paris Review, The Atlantic Monthly, as well as many other international publications.

His novels include Songdogs, This Side of Brightness, Dancer, Zoli, Let the Great World Spin, and TransAtlantic.

Early life[edit]

McCann was born in Dublin in 1965 and studied journalism in the former College of Commerce in Rathmines, now the Dublin Institute of Technology.[4] He became a reporter for The Irish Press Group, and had his own column and byline in the Evening Press by the age of 21. McCann has said that his time in the Irish newspapers gave him an excellent platform from which to launch a career in fiction. He moved to the United States in 1986 and worked for a short period in Hyannis, Massachusetts. Between 1986 and 1988 he took a bicycle across the United States, travelling over 12,000 kilometres.

In 1988 he moved to Texas where he worked as a wilderness educator with juvenile delinquents. He later went to the University of Texas where he graduated with a 4.0 grade point average and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. He began writing the stories that later comprised his first collection, Fishing the Sloe-Black River.

Personal life[edit]

McCann and his wife Allison lived in Japan for eighteen months from 1993-94. During this time, Colum worked on his first collection of stories and taught English as a foreign language. In 1994, he moved to New York. He, his wife and their three children Isabella, John Michael, and Christian reside in New York.[3]

On June 16, 2009, McCann published a Bloomsday remembrance in The New York Times of his long-deceased grandfather, whom he met only once, and of finding him again in the pages of James Joyce's Ulysses. McCann wrote "The man whom I had met only once was becoming flesh and blood through the pages of a fiction." [5]


McCann, Christy Kelly, Christopher Cahill and Frank McCourt at New York City's Housing Works bookstore for a tribute to the then-recently deceased Irish poet Benedict Kiely

McCann writes in a 9th-floor apartment sitting with a computer device on his lap on the floor of a cupboard with no windows located between "two very tight walls", surrounded by messages written by himself and others.[6]

"I believe in the democracy of storytelling," said McCann in an interview. "I love the fact that our stories can cross all sorts of borders and boundaries."[7]

His short story "Everything in this Country Must" was made into a short film directed by Gary McKendry. It was nominated for an Academy Award in 2005. His 2009 novel Let the Great World Spin is an allegory of 9/11 using the true story of Philippe Petit as a "pull-through metaphor".[3] J. J. Abrams discussed working with McCann to make the novel in to a movie.[8]

McCann's most recent novel TransAtlantic was published in June 2013. It spent several weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List.

McCann has spoken at a variety of momentous events, including the 2010 Boston College First Year Academic Convocation about his book Let the Great World Spin.

McCann currently teaches on the Hunter College faculty as part of the MFA Creative Writing program.[9]

Awards and honours[edit]

Esquire Magazine's named him "Best and Brightest" young novelist in 2003. A Pushcart Prize, Rooney Prize, Irish Novel of the Year Award and the 2002 Ireland Fund of Monaco Princess Grace Memorial Literary Award have also come his way. He is in Aosdána.[10] He was inducted into the Hennessy Literary Awards Hall of Fame in 2005, having been named Hennessy New Irish Writer 15 years earlier.[11] McCann was awarded Chevalier des Arts et Lettres by the French government in 2009. He received the Deauville Festival Literary Prize: the Ambassador Award, the inaugural Medici Book Club Prize and was the overall winner of the Grinzane Award in Italy. In 2010, “Let the Great World Spin” was named’s “Book of the Year.” Additionally, in 2010, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He received a literary award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2011. 15 June 2011 brought the announcement that Let the Great World Spin had won the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the 19th most lucrative literary award in the world.[12][13] Afterwards, McCann lauded fellow nominees William Trevor and Yiyun Li, suggesting either would have been worthy winners instead.[14] In 2012, the Dublin Institute of Technology gave him an honorary degree. In 2013, he received an honorary degree from Queen's University, Belfast.


In 2012, with a group of other writers, educators and social activists, McCann co-founded Narrative4, a global U.S.-based charity dedicated to social change, on which he sits as board chairman.[6] Prior to his involvement in Narrative4 McCann was very active in New York and Irish-based charities, in particular, PEN, the American-Ireland Fund, the New York Public library, the Norman Mailer Colony and Roddy Doyle’s Fighting Words.



  • McCann, Colum (1994). Fishing the sloe-black river. London: Phoenix House. 
  • Songdogs (1995)
  • This Side of Brightness (1998)
  • Everything in this Country Must (2000)
  • Dancer (2003)
  • Zoli (2006)
  • Let the Great World Spin (2009)
  • TransAtlantic (2013)
  • The Book of Men, Curated by Colum McCann and the Editors of Esquire and Narrative 4 (2013)
  • Thirteen Ways of Looking (2015)

Essays and reporting[edit]


  1. ^ "Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing". Hunter College. 
  2. ^ "Colum McCann – Biography". European Graduate School. Retrieved 23 June 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c McCann, Colum. "About Colum McCann". Retrieved 8 December 2009. 
  4. ^ "Author Colum McCann honoured by DIT". Dublin Institute of Technology. 21 February 2012. Retrieved 21 February 2012. 
  5. ^ McCann, Colum (16 June 2009). "But Always Meeting Ourselves". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 June 2009. 
  6. ^ a b Lovell, Joel (30 May 2013). "Colum McCann's Radical Empathy". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  7. ^ Goodall, Jackie (31 May 2013). "Catherine Dunn Interviews Colum McCann". Listowel Writers' Week. 
  8. ^ Rich, Motoko (11 December 2009). "J.J. Abrams Wants to ‘Let the Great World Spin'". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 June 2014. 
  9. ^ "Creative Writing MFA Faculty". Hunter College. Retrieved 24 June 2014. 
  10. ^ "Current members - Literature". Aosdána. 
  11. ^ "Cheers as McCann enters Hall of Fame". Irish Independent. 1 April 2006. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  12. ^ "Colum McCann wins IMPAC Dublin Award". Los Angeles Times. 16 June 2011. Retrieved 16 June 2011. 
  13. ^ Bosman, Julie (16 June 2011). "Colum McCann Wins Rich Novel Prize". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 June 2011. 
  14. ^ Battersby, Eileen (16 June 2011). "'I decided to write the great Irish novel but couldn't. I wasn't messed-up enough'". The Irish Times. Retrieved 16 June 2011. (subscription required (help)). 

Further reading[edit]

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