Top 153 Quotes & Sayings by Colum McCann

Explore popular quotes and sayings by an Irish writer Colum McCann.
Colum McCann

Colum McCann is an Irish writer of literary fiction. He was born in Dublin, Ireland, and now lives in New York. He is a Thomas Hunter Writer in Residence at Hunter College, New York.

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About 25 years ago, I took a bicycle across the United States. I soon found out that the greatest item of clothing was the trusty bandanna. There were dozens of uses for a bandanna - as a pot holder, a chain cleaner, a sun shield, a headband, a snot rag, a declaration of Kerouacian intent.
I mean, every novel's a historical novel anyway. But calling something a historical novel seems to put mittens on it, right? It puts manners on it. And you don't want your novels to be mannered.
I don't really know what an adverb is. A dangling participle? That sounds really rude. I don't know what character is, really. Plot seems vaguely juvenile to me. It's all about language, it's all about how you apply it to the page.
The contemporary American novelist benefits in a way from being ignored. It makes you angrier and makes you want to go into all of those places where you shouldn't. — © Colum McCann
The contemporary American novelist benefits in a way from being ignored. It makes you angrier and makes you want to go into all of those places where you shouldn't.
I'm not interested in blind optimism, but I'm very interested in optimism that is hard-won, that takes on darkness and then says, 'This is not enough.'
The short story is an imploding universe. It has all the boil of energy inside it. A novel has shrapnel going all over the place. You can have a mistake in a novel. A short story has to be perfect.
When I come home, I say I'm coming home to Dublin. When I'm in Dublin, I say I'm going home to New York. I'm sort of a man of two countries.
Part of me really wants to believe that hope is entirely available to all of us. We don't have to embrace it. It would be sentimental and silly to say that we all need it, but it is absolutely available to all of us.
Very seldom in my fiction have I directly used the stories people have told me. I think ripping off people's lives in fiction is dangerous. It also lacks imagination.
Every first thing is always a miracle. The first person you fall in love with. The first letter you receive. The first stone you throw. And in my conception of the novel, the letter becomes important. But what's more important is the fact that we need to continue to tell each other stories.
Increasingly I think of myself as some strange and solitary conductor, introduced to a group of very dynamic musicians who happen to be my characters, and I have no idea how they are going to play together, and I have certainly no idea how I am going to put manners on them.
I'm much more interested in allowing a story to happen, and people find whatever meaning is in there.
I have a wardrobe full of scarves now, just about every color under the sun. My trick is that I always cut them in two, down the middle. They're lighter, thinner, skinnier that way. And because I'm cheap, I get two scarves for the price of one.
It's not very fashionable, but I love life, and I believe that things disappear and reappear and nothing ever solidifies, no matter how middle-class, housebroken, staid, and solitary someone's life seems to be. That, I think, is what I'm writing about.
I don't believe a poet has a better hold on truth or morality than a fiction writer has. And I don't think a fiction writer has anything over a journalist. It's all about the good word, properly inserted.
'Let the Great World Spin' at the end talks a lot about connections and light and possibility and the fact that the world doesn't end. Even in the darkest times, we have to go on.
I think literature can make familiar the unfamiliar, and the unfamiliar is very much about the dispossessed, and so the value of literature seems to me to go into the stories that not everybody wants to tell.
The best writers attempt to become alternative historians. — © Colum McCann
The best writers attempt to become alternative historians.
In a certain way, novelists become unacknowledged historians, because we talk about small, tiny, little anonymous moments that won't necessarily make it into the history books.
I don't believe the world's a particularly beautiful place, but I do believe in redemption.
The further away we got from 9/11, the more I wanted to find some way to recover. I wanted to talk about the more anonymous corners of the city, because I think it's very important that not all of that anger was turned to revenge.
I think we need stories, and we need to tell the stories over and over and over not only to remind us, but to be able to have that clarity of experience that changes us, so that we know who we are now because of who we have been at some other time.
The job of the writer is to look at where he is now and make some sort of emotional sense of it, not only for that moment but for years to come.
If you're a writer, you know there are ways in which we don't know what we're doing at all. We're working out mysteries in a sort of poetic realm, and hoping that if a story is honest, if you're dragging the deep truth out of yourself, then something good and profound might come out of it.
I think one of the biggest political failures, and the biggest social failures, over the past few years has been the failure of empathy; not being able to look at the other person down the street.
People think they know the mystery of living in your skin. They don't. There's no one who knows except the person who carts it around her own self.
Literature can remind us that not all life is already written down: there are still so many stories to be told.
The luxury of age was the giving up of vanity.
Even if people laughed at the notion of goodness, if they found it sentimental, or nostalgic, it didn't matter -- it was none of those things, he said, and it had to be fought for.
I guess this is what marriage is, or was, or could be. You drop the mask. You allow the fatigue in. You lean across and kiss the years because they're the things that matter.
The thing about love is that we come alive in bodies not our own.
Life must pass through difficulty in order to achieve any modicum of beauty.
Long ago, long ago. The simple things come back to us. They rest for a moment by our ribcages then suddenly reach in and twist our hearts a notch backward.
I don't know of a greater privilege than being allowed to tell a story, or to listen to a story. They're the only thing we have that can trump life itself.
I think a good novel can be a doorstop to despair. I also think the real bravery comes with those who prepared to go through that door and look at the world in all its grime and torment, and still find something of value, no matter how small.
The real beauty in life is that beauty can sometimes occur.
We have to admire the world for not ending on us.
The essence of intelligence was to know when, or if, to expose even the heart's deep need for instruction.
There's a part of me that thinks perhaps we go on existing in a place even after we've left it. — © Colum McCann
There's a part of me that thinks perhaps we go on existing in a place even after we've left it.
The tunnels of our lives connect, coming to daylight at the oddest moments, and then plunge us into the dark again. We return to the lives of those who have gone before us, a perplexing möbius strip until we come home, eventually, to ourselves.
There are moments we return to, now and always. Family is like water - it has a memory of what it once filled, always trying to get back to the original stream.
I’m not interested in blind optimism, but I’m very interested in optimism that is hard-won, that takes on darkness and then says, ‘This is not enough.’ But it takes time, more time than we can sometimes imagine, to get there. And sometimes we don’t.
People are good or half good or a quarter good, and it changes all the time- but even on the best day nobody's perfect.
Cynicism is easy. An optimist is a braver cynic.
Goodness was more difficult than evil. Evil men knew that more than good men. That's why they became evil. That's why it stuck with them. Evil was for those who could never reach the truth. It was a mask for stupidity and lack of love. Even if people laughed at the notion of goodness, if they found it sentimental, or nostalgic, it didn't matter -- it was none of those things, he said, and it had to be fought for.
I think it is our job, as writers, to be epic. Epic and tiny at the same time. If you're going to be a fiction writer, why not take on something that means something. In doing this, you must understand that within that epic structure it is the tiny story that is possibly more important.
It was a silence that heard itself, awful and beautiful.
Part of the beauty of fiction is that we come alive in a body that we don't own.
Sometimes thinking back on things is a mistake arising out of pride, but I guess you live inside a moment for years, move with it and feel it grow, and it sends out roots until it touches everything in sight.
It is not fashionable anymore, I suppose, to have a regard for one's mother in the way my brother and I had then, in the mid-1950s, when the noise outside the window was mostly wind and sea chime.
I write about what I know; and I write about things that are new to me, and that I didn't know before.
The world does not turn without moments of grace. Who cares how small.
I sit there thinking about how much courage it takes to live an ordinary life. — © Colum McCann
I sit there thinking about how much courage it takes to live an ordinary life.
The point of flight. To get rid of oneself. That was reason enough to fly.
Give life long enough and it will solve all your problems, including the one of being alive.
Some people think love is the end of the road, and if you're lucky enough to find it, you stay there. Other people say it just becomes a cliff you drive off, but most people who've been around awhile know it's just a thing that changes day by day, and depending on how much you fight for it, you get it, or you hold on to it, or you lose it, but sometimes it's never even there in the first place.
There are no days more full than those we go back to.
The world spins. We stumble on. It is enough.
Stories are the best democracy we have. We are allowed to become the other we never dreamed we could be.
She's always thought that one of the beauties of New York is that you can be from anywhere and within moments of landing its yours.
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