PEN Conversation with Michael Ondaatje

WITHOUT A MAP “Adventures in the Skin Trade” A conversation with Michael Ondaatje and Colum McCann at the New York Public Library in conjunction with the PEN World Voices festival 2008. COLUM McCANN: Can I ask you a weird, strange, sort of off-the-wall question? Do you have fun? MICHAEL ONDAATJE: Do I have fun writing or just [...]

National Book Award Interview

Interview conducted by Bret Anthony Johnston. Bret Anthony Johnston: First, congratulations on Let the Great World Spin being named a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction! Do you recall the inception of the book? Was there any image or incident or memory that triggered the writing process? Colum McCann: Thanks so much. One only has to [...]

Let The Great World Spin Q&A

Tell us about your new novel, Let the Great World Spin. Well, on one hand it is a simple narrative of lives entwined in the early 1970’s. Most of it takes place on one day in New York in August 1974 when Phillipe Petit (unnamed in the book) makes his tightrope walk across the World Trade [...]

Zoli Interview: Q&A with Laura McCaffrey

What inspired you to write this novel? Well I’d just written Dancer, a fictionalisation of the life of Rudolph Nureyev, a story that ranged time periods and continents and territories. So I wanted to take it easy for a while. I wanted a smaller story. But that’s exactly what I didn’t get. My wife, Allison, was [...]

Zoli Interview: Q&A with Michael Hayes

What did you know about the Roma before you started writing the book? Nothing. I came to the Romani culture empty-handed. That’s interesting, now that I finally understand it. The gadjo (non-Gypsy) comes in, swaggering, but is immediately apparent as empty-handed. What an idiot he is. He thinks he can watch. Even worse, he thinks [...]

Dancer Interview

Colum interviewed by Declan Meade, Stinging Fly Magazine, 2003   This is ostensibly the story of the life of Rudolf Nureyev and the lives of the people around him. What inspired you to write this novel? “Ostensibly” is a good word. This is not a biography. It’s a story, a novel, a tale. For a long [...]

This Side of Brightness Interview

What kind of role did “research” (everyday materials, files…) play in “This Side of Brightness”? How much did it affect the final result? At the beginning of the novel, or when I was researching it, I used to go down to the tunnels four or five times a week. I’d hang out, outside the tunnels, [...]

Conversation with Sasha Hemon

Sasha: The beginning of Dancer is astonishing. You begin with a narrative that conveys the Soviet Army experience of World War 2, the subject of which is “they” and the section ends with zooming in on a six-year old boy who’s waiting for his father, one of “them”–who could be any one of them– to come [...]

Identity Theory: Colum interviewed by Robert Birnbaum

Robert Birnbaum: Is there really no Russian word for ‘privacy’? Colum McCann: No, there’s not. There is nothing that accurately reflects what we believe of as privacy. RB: That’s peculiar isn’t it? CM: There might be now. Certainly not in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. Right now there might be a developing word for privacy. That’s a country, right [...]