TransAtlantic: A Novel [Colum McCann] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • LONGLISTED FOR THE. TransAtlantic is a novel by Colum McCann, published in June Based upon the book, Colum wrote the lyrics for Clannad’s song “TransAtlantic”, released. In TransAtlantic, National Book Award-winning Colum McCann has achieved an outstanding act of literary bravura. Intricately crafted, poetic and deeply affecting.

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Your tax-deductible donation made to LARB by For almost two decades, Colum McCann has labored at a very old truth indeed: Its success seemed due in no small part to its subject matter: There is much to admire in Let the Great World Spin.

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His ability to inhabit voices ranging from a Park Avenue housewife to a Bronx prostitute is truly impressive. The parallactic effect of the multiple perspectives keeps the narrative fresh. In its eagerness to soothe the traumas of the past, the novel often veered dangerously close to bathos. It is a work that displays lots of skill and ambition but little vision or delight, as if, in the midst of busily studying Vickers airplanes and the speeches of Frederick Douglass, McCann forgot why he set about writing his book in the first place.

It leaps back and forth in time and touches the shores of Ireland, Newfoundland, and America. It examines the lives of factual men and fictional women. The results are several brilliant passages, many leaden ones, and the unhappy suggestion that McCann may have exhausted his great theme.


TransAtlantic is basically divided into two parts.

The first is a triptych of historical figures at key moments in their careers: The second half traces four generations of Irish women whose lives intersect in more or less significant ways with those of the flyers, Douglass, and Mitchell. Popular histories tend to elide the hopes and fears of ordinary people, forgetting, for instance, that the Gettysburg Address was intended not for the walls of the Lincoln Memorial, but rather for the ears of people like you and me.

McCann has often argued as much. I cared about the shoemaker, the rentboy, the smaller characters at the edges. This is sensible and worthy enough, but TransAtlantic attempts to cover too much ground in its pages.

It quickly raises and discards concerns: This crowdedness weakens the novel in almost every way. Let the Great World Spin was expansive enough that links between plot strands were often genuinely surprising. But in the confines of TransAtlanticthe cross-pollinations are expected and often superficial; the deeper connections between, say, Douglass and Mitchell remain opaque, bolstered only by sonorous declarations like: Absent a strong organizing principle, the novel can feel like a game of connect the dots between its scattered sections, the lines drawn not to reveal a larger picture but for the sake of drawing lines.

The tenth anniversary of Alcock and Brown. By then, people were presumably talking about a fellow named Lindbergh. Where the historical figures are concerned, this necessity manifests itself as an anxiety that they will appear not as fully fleshed humans but as moribund busts in a gallery. These are finely observed details, and in a more spacious novel, they would dazzle. But on the spare pages of TransAtlanticthey feel like slightly desperate tags, designating their owners as alive.


As for the purely fictional characters: Her dressing gown exposes a triangle of white skin at her neck. Occasionally deployed in Great Worldthose fragments are annoyingly common in TransAtlantic.

TransAtlantic: A Novel: Colum McCann: : Books

We have come too far. We own that dictum now. But his dependence on fragments stiffens the book unnecessarily and deprives the reader of the joy coum what his language, when allowed to stretch its legs, can do. Jon Ehrlich used a long thin augur to bore the holes.

Steel with a sharp point. When he turned the handle, it looked to Lily as though he were churning butter. Small sparks of ice rose from trasnatlantic surface. He went across the lake with the boys, sinking hole after hole in the ice, three feet apart. They made a checkerboard of the lake. They stood over each hole and inserted a thin stick to make sure the drill had gone all the way through.

The water gurgled up and spread. The spill from each drill hole met its neighbor, a spreading sheet of freeze. This passage is almost perfectly written: At last, we have before us human beings that feel born rather than staged. TransAtlantic here achieves what it largely fails to do elsewhere. James Santel lives, writes, and teaches in St. He blogs at jsantel.

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