Information Update - Spring 2014

Colum McCann to Receive Distinguished Author Award

The Friends of the Weinberg Memorial Library Royden B. Davis Distinguished Author Award will be presented this year to National Book Award-winning author Colum McCann.
Colum McCann Novelist and short story writer Colum McCann won the 2009 National Book Award for fiction for his eighth book, Let the Great World Spin. For this work—in which stories intersect and diverge, with the August 7, 1974walk by Philippe Petit on a wire stretched between the two towers of the World Trade Center as a focal point—he researched tightrope walking, Vietnam, theology and the language of the streets. In an interview with Bret Anthony Johnson for the National Book Foundation website, the Current Biography Yearbook for 2010 notes that McCann spent time with homicide detectives, watched films, studied old photographs, and sat in Bronx stairwells to "soak up a language that would relate to the streets." McCann told Johnston: "I love research. I feel that I go to university each time I write a new book. I revel in getting away from myself." (Current Biography, 375) His works reflect diverse settings, characters and voices. The 2010 Current Biography article also notes that for his book This Side of Brightness, McCann spent nights with homeless people on New York City Streets. He studied the history and culture of the Roma or gypsies for Zoli. McCann studied the social conditions and arts, traveled to Russia and interviewed friends of Rudolf Nureyev to write his work Dancer about the ballet.
Colum McCann was born in a suburb of Dublin, Ireland. He studied journalism at Rathmines College in Dublin. To gather experience for his writing, he spent a year bicycling across the United States. After earning a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin, he moved with his wife to Japan where he worked on short stories and completed his first novel, Songdogs. The couple later moved to New York City, and McCann published Fishing the Sloe-Black River, a collection of 12 short stories that include "tales about a gay man and his dying lover, an ex-prizefighter's obsession with a former girlfriend and other stories of love, loss, exile and everyday struggles." (Current Biography, 375) The book won the 1994 Rooney Award for an Irish author under the age of 40. He later co-wrote a screenplay based on this collection. In 2004 he co-authored the screenplay for the Academy Award nominated short film Everything in This Country Must. His most recent work, TransAtlantic, crosses two continents and three centuries to interweave the lives of strong female characters with those of Frederick Douglass and Senator George Mitchell.
Since 2005, McCann has taught in the M F A creative writing program at Hunter College, a division of the City University of New York.  In addition to the National Book Award and the Rooney prize, his honors include the Irish Independent award, the Hennessy Award for Irish Literature (1990), the Ireland Fund of Monaco Princess Grace Memorial Literary Award (2002) and the Deauville Festival of Cinema Literary Prize Award (2009).  Also in 2009, France named him a chevalier in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres ,and the Arts Council of Ireland inducted him into Aosdana which is limited to 250 living artists who have produced a distinguished body of work. (Current Biography, 377).

The Dictionary of Literary Biography states that his works compel interest "because of his inventive images and symbols, his rich poetic language, and his explorations of international characters who often live on the margins of society in Ireland and America." (DLB, vol. 267, p. 181) Reviewers and critics have noted that "his writing blends both the lushness of magic realism and the spare details of a harsh realism." (DLB, Vol. 267, p. 186) 

Please join us on October 18 at 5 p.m. in the DeNaples Ballr oom  when we present the Friends of the Weinberg Memorial Library Royden B. Davis Distinguished A uthor Award to Colum McCann.  To register for the event, please go to the Distinguished Author website (
Bonnie Strohl