In this edition of HoCoPoLitSo’s “The Writing Life,” poet and musician Terence Winch talks with Irish novelist Colum McCann (winner of the 2009 National Book Award for Let the Great World Spin) after his second novel debuted to great acclaim. McCann, who grew up middle class in Dublin, talks about his two-year bicycle trek around America, gathering stories as a journalist, that helped turn him into a novelist. And while he counts Irish writers as influences, he mostly read Kerouac and Burroughs as a teen.
McCann reads from his first novel, Songdogs, and from This Side of Brightness, about the New York subway tunnels and the homeless who make their homes there, as well as the sand hogs who built the tunnels. McCann spent a year in the tunnels, and counts listening as the best way to research. “I don’t want to write about my family, about me. I think it’s much more liberating to be in the imagination. People always tell to write what you know about, but I say no, write about what you don’t know about.”
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