Award winning author to speak to students

Colum McCann wrote the award winning novel “Let the Great World Spin.” -Contributed Photo by Brendan Bourke

Colum McCann comes to campus this week

Like most major universities, ECU has recently followed suit and taken a greater responsibility of providing its students, faculty and community with world-renowned writers to come and lecture about the art of writing. And with this fairly recent surge in lectures of literature, the Division of Research and Graduate Studies, along with the Department of English, have created the Contemporary Writers Series, which will host award winner Colum McCann this week.

The winner of the 2009 National Book Award for fiction for his novel “Let The Great World Spin,” along with countless other awards such as “Esquire’s” Writer of the Year and Pushcart Prize, this Irish-born writer will give three free lectures in his time in Greenville. McCann will speak at an event titled “The Art of Fiction” on Wednesday night in Bate 1031 and a public reading on Thursday night at the Greenville Museum of Art.

“He speaks to what our concerns are right now, our recent American history, even though he’s an Irishman,” said Tom Douglass, co-creator of the Contemporary Writers Series and professor in the Department of English. “He writes about America very well and seems to write about what the concerns of your generation, the recent past since 9/11, and what the challenges are growing up.”

The goal of the Contemporary Writers Series is not just to bring writers to the university, but also to bring accomplished, award winning, internationally recognized writers that are true to the craft of literature that can come and inspire the next generation of writers. “It is a very rare experience for students who are studying literature to be in the presence of a living, breathing writer,” said Liza Wieland, co-creator of the Contemporary Writers Series and professor in the Department of English. ”I really think it is eye-opening and encouraging for young writers to see that people practicing their craft are walking around.”

And for Wieland, this experience is extra exciting, considering McCann’s “Let the Great World Spin” is the best, most inspiring book she has ever read. “The way he weaves characters together in this one day in August in New York in 1974 is nothing short of miraculous,” said Wieland. “This has only happened to me with a handful of books, but when I read the last sentence, I did not want it to be over.”

Last February, the Contemporary Writers Series brought author, journalist and poet Colm Toibin, another Irish writer, to campus to kick off the creation of the series. “I thought that we’d want to have some writers with a pretty good reputation come and establish the series,”  said Douglass, “a world reputation.”

Just like last year’s packed events for Toibin’s lecture and readings, Douglass hopes that this year’s turnout will be much the same, as he believes that having writers of this caliber coming to speak with undergraduate and graduate students is a special opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up. “I remember my undergraduate education and that happened several times, and it really stayed with me,” said Douglass. “It really inspired me to keep going to school and do something. I hope it has the same effect on my students.”

Douglass, who has been teaching McCann’s work for the past three years, believes that “if you have the author of the book you just read comes to class, it’s a different kind of experience,” he said. “Even rubbing shoulders with people that create art and literature gives you your empowered feeling like, ‘He’s just a guy, I could do that.’ I hope it inspires students to a more personal relationship with their education.”

McCann is the author of five novels and two collections of short stories, most recently selling the film rights to his book “Let the Great World Spin” to J.J. Abrams, creator of ABC’s “Lost.”

This writer can be contacted at lifestyles@theeastcarolinian.com.

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