Colum McCann is an Irish writer who in 2009 wrote that book about Philippe Petit, which turns outThis review is going to be mostly about me.
Colum McCann is an Irish writer who in 2009 wrote that book about Philippe Petit, which turns out to have been as much about Philippe Petit as, say, To Kill a Mockingbird is about Boo Radley. The book merely uses Petit’s performance art as an anchoring point around which the book’s different stories of life in 1970s New York City are tethered. And in spite of the fact that the short story form is not generally my bag, I actually found it surprisingly coherent.
TransAtlantic tries to do something similar here, but in this case the anchor’s weight is supplied by a generational line of women, female descendants of Ireland, and it is Irish history that weaves through and around them—history including the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic, Frederick Douglass’s tour of Ireland following the publishing of his first autobiography, the Great Irish Famine, the approval of the Good Friday Agreement, and The Troubles in Belfast. And while I liked this book (though not as much Let the Great World Spin), I don’t believe it would have been as successful in the hands of another writer. In other words, I don’t think there’s anything particularly great about this book, but there is something great about McCann himself. Over lunch the other day, Steve Hotopp said it’s the “Irish” in him, and I don’t know how to explain that other than to say that he has a certain flair for imagery and for setting and for establishing time and place. His characters move about without a lot of fuss but are solid characters nonetheless. And here’s where we start to talk about me. I think it might have to do with the fact that McCann’s writing makes me feel as though I’m somehow back in Ireland—back in Dublin, crossing the Liffey into the poorer northern sections, back in Dalkey Village or walking the beaches of Sandymount, back amidst the hustle and bustle of the Dún Laoghaire docks (I WANT TO TEACH YOU HOW TO SAY DÚN LAOGHAIRE!), and even back in the north, back in Belfast along the Malone Road where I lived, or on the Stranmillis, or at Queens where I went to school, or at the Europa on Great Victoria, the entire city a weird mix of Anglo and Irish influence; take a wrong turn and BOOM, you’d better have the right last name. It made me miss all those places I haven’t thought about in years, which is probably not at all what this book is supposed to do for its readership, but this is what I’m trying to tell you: that is the effect it had on me.
I think The Tempest would have worked better as a tragedy. I don’t know why William didn’t consult with me first. I would have advised him to end hisI think The Tempest would have worked better as a tragedy. I don’t know why William didn’t consult with me first. I would have advised him to end his career with a bang: Sebastian would murder his brother Alonso, Antonio would murder Gonzalo, Caliban would have Stephano kill Prospero, Miranda would cry, Ferdinand would have discovered his father dead and murder his uncle, Miranda wouldn’t have the guts to kill her uncle Antonio, but she and Ferdinand would capture him and Caliban and avenge Prospero’s death by usurping his magical powers and indenturing them to their beck and call for the rest of eternity on the island. Ariel would be freed.
My Shakespeare Top Ten List
10. The Taming of the Shrew 9. Romeo and Juliet 8. The Tempest 7. Twelfth Night 6. Othello 5. A Midsummer Night’s Dream 4. Much Ado About Nothing 3. King Lear 2. Macbeth ... 1. Hamlet