Michael Collins Irish Times Book Club podcast
The Man Booker shortlisted author discusses his career, his Rustbelt Trilogy and the rise of Donald Trump, and his month-long marathon-a-day Famine memorial run
As Books Editor of The Irish Times, one of the perks of the job is you get to champion writers whose work you admire. Earlier this month, as part of the Ennis Book Club Festival, it was my privilege to interview one of my favourite Irish authors, Michael Collins, in Glor Theatre in Ennis, Co Clare, for the March 2017 edition of the Irish Times Book Club Podcast.
Collins has written 10 outstanding works of fictions including The Keepers of Truth, which was Irish Novel of the Year in 2000 as well as being shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the International Impac Dublin Literary Award. His latest novel, The Death of All Things Seen, was hailed by fellow author Eoin McNamee in his Irish Times review last year as a “dense, absorbing work, shot through with brilliance and insight ... a formidable, demanding achievement”.
Collins travelled to Ennis all the way from his home in Indiana, to where he emigrated as a teenager on a running scholarship to the University of Notre Dame. He is, however, something of a local boy, born just down the road in Limerick. Researching for the podcast, I was struck by a similarity to Frank McCourt, another Limerick boy made good in the US, who was inspired to write by his experience of grinding poverty in Limerick. For McCourt it was the 1930s and ’40s. For Collins it was the ’70s, but the deprivation and neglect he witnessed had a big effect on his politics and his writing, though his territory would become the Rustbelt of the Midwest of the United States – America’s Ashes if you like.
In our interview, Collins discusses the arc of his career, his outsider’s sensibility as a writer, how he wrote Keepers of Truth longhand after work in Microsoft’s HQ in Seattle, his Rustbelt Trilogy and the rise of Donald Trump, his career as an extreme runner and his month-long marathon-a-day run last summer to commemorate Canada’s Famine victims.