Michael Collins is this month’s Irish Times Book Club author
Many of the US-based writer’s works are set in the Rust Belt and depict the souring of the American Dream that prefigured the rise of Donald Trump
Michael Collins in the Ireland Park Famine Memorial in Toronto, Canada
Michael Collins, whose novel The Keepers of Truth was shortlisted for the 2000 Man Booker Prize and the Impac Award and won Irish Novel of the Year, is this month’s Irish Times Book Club featured author.
The author of 10 works of fiction will be discussing his career with Martin Doyle, Books Editor of The Irish Times, in the glór theatre, Ennis, this Saturday, March 4th, at 9.30pm, as part of the Ennis Book Club Festival. The event will be recorded for a podcast which will be live on irishtimes.com from March 31st.
Collins will also discuss his epic 550-mile run last summer from Grosse Ile quarantine station in Quebec to Ireland Park Famine Memorial in Toronto to raise funds to commemorate the route Famine refugees took across Canada and the locals who helped them.
Collins is in the tradition of the great Chicago writers, Midwestern writers, such as Saul Bellow, Theodore Dreiser, James T Farrell, other chroniclers of the American underbelly
The author was born in Limerick and emigrated to the United States on an athletics scholarship to the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, near where he still lives. Many of his works are set in the Rust Belt, the once prosperous Midwest region of the US hit by economic decline and population loss.
The Resurrectionists (2003) and Lost Souls (2004) form a loose trilogy with The Keepers of Truth and their depiction of disaffected and damaged lives and the souring of the American Dream have taken on an extra charge with the election of Donald Trump as US president.
His other works are The Meat Eaters ( 1992); The Life and Times of a Teaboy (1993); The Feminists Go Swimming (1994); Emerald Underground (1998); The Resurrectionists (2003); Lost Souls (2004); The Secret Life of E Robert Pendleton (2006); Midnight in a Perfect Life ( 2010); and The Death of All Things Seen (2016).
Eoin McNamee’s Irish Times review of Collins’s latest novel caled it a “dense, absorbing work, shot through with brilliance and insight ... a formidable, demanding achievement”.
“The prose carries the momentum of the novel. It is driven, virtuoso. The pace counterbalances the weight of the prose. The urgent phrasing impels the reader forward, the writer’s insight wants you to dwell on the individual sentence. It’s the runner’s aesthetic, driving you into the deeper recesses of self.”
Over the next four weeks, The Irish Times will publish a series of articles exploring Collins’s works, including a major essay by the author exploring the social and economic evolution of the US through the prism of his career in technology and as a writer.
Collins, writes Prof William O’Rourke, director of creative writing at Notre Dame, in his essay, “is in the tradition of the great Chicago writers, Midwestern writers, such as Saul Bellow, Theodore Dreiser, James T Farrell, other chroniclers of the American underbelly, its teeming sites of production and consumption, its portraits of the used and used-up many who both populate the place and produce its products”.
Other contributors will include Prof Karl Ameriks, former McMahon-Hank Professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame; Maggie McKernan, editor at Head of Zeus and sole editor of Collins’s work since his first collection of stories in 1991 at Jonathan Cape; and Steve Carlsen, a former US soldier who served in Kosovo and Afghanistan who has written a collection of short stories about his wartime experiences and a novel. We will also carry an interview with the author.