Essays on the Fiction of Colum McCann
Susan Cahill and Eóin Flannery Introduction
This Side of Brightness: Essays on the Fiction of Colum McCann takes its titular impetus from Colum McCann’s second novel, and third publication, published in 1998. McCann’s This Side of Brightness is the first of his fictions to take New York City as the primary crucible of its action – though both previous publications, Fishing the Sloe-Black River (1994) and Songdogs (1995), had alighted upon the transatlantic relations between Ireland and the US as thematics. But the shift in This Side of Brightness to a geographical concentration on New York permitted McCann to explore in lyrical detail the tragedies and the hopes of generations of marginalized communities within that burgeoning metropolis. Focalized through the experiences of several generations of one family, the Walkers, the novel marks the most explicit expression of McCann’s interest in oppression and redemption up to this point in his writing career. Indeed his 1998 novel is a powerful social novel, which combines elements of class, gender, ethnicity, homelessness (in more than one form), and migration in its exploration of the tenacity of human hopefulness. And this seems, in retrospect, to be the presiding ethical dynamic of McCann’s fictions: the power of narrative to redeem and to dignify even the most of abject of lives. Right across his body of work, onwards from the early stories of emigration and displacement and beyond This Side of Brightness to Everything in This Country Must (2000); Dancer (2003), Zoli (2006), and Let the Great World Spin (2009), McCann tracks lives and...
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