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This Side of Brightness

Essays on the Fiction of Colum McCann


Edited By Susan Cahill and Eóin Flannery

Colum McCann is one of the most important Irish writers in contemporary literary fiction. His work has been critically acclaimed across the globe for its artistic achievement, its thematic range and its ethical force. This Side of Brightness: Essays on the Fiction of Colum McCann is the first collection of scholarly essays to deal with McCann’s œuvre, drawing on the pioneering critical work of some of the leading figures in Irish literary studies. Touching on a host of central themes in McCann’s writing – emigration, race, performance, poverty, travel, nationality and globalization – the volume covers each of McCann’s publications and includes a substantial interview with the author. The book is an invaluable resource for current and future scholars of the Irish novel.


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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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