Portland, Oregon

Colum McCann

Irish author, Colum McCann, reflects on the importance of stories and storytelling, and how sharing and listening to stories combats cynicism.

In this episode of The Archive Project, Colum McCann gives a talk he’s titled “Can’t Go On, Must Go On.” Drawing from the famous quote by Samuel Beckett, McCann uses this talk to explore storytelling and his refusal of cynicism. He shares insights into the inspiration and process behind some of his most famous works and discusses how four books that he’s written are connected in compelling and surprising ways. He asserts that, ultimately, all things are given to us for a purpose, including struggles and darkness, to help shape our lives.

Everywhere we’ve been is everywhere we are now, and everything experience is something that helps us move into the present moment.”

“I love writing books because I get to write what I don’t supposedly know. I get to investigate the world and see new things and go to new places.”

“We have to engage with the darkness. Only by engaging with the darkness do we recognize that there is some form of light that is apparent.”

Colum McCann is the author of six novels, including Let the Great World Spin (Random House, 2009) and three collections of stories. His most recent book is the collection Thirteen Ways of Looking (Random House, 2015), a novella and three stories, which earned him praise from the Wall Street Journal: “McCann is a passionate writer whose impulse is always toward a generous understanding of his diverse characters.” Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, he has been the recipient of many international honors, including the National Book Award, the International Dublin Impac Prize, a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French government, election to the Irish Arts Academy, the 2010 Best Foreign Novel Award in China, and an Oscar nomination. He is the co-founder of the nonprofit global story exchange organization, Narrative 4, and he teaches at the MFA program at Hunter College.

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