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Leading Irish Novelist
To Reads Works on Campus
March 13, 2000

Colum McCann, one of the most celebrated of the new generation of Irish novelists, will be the third speaker in the Elizabeth Shanley Gerson Memorial Irish Literature program.

McCann, author of Fishing the Sloe Black River, a collection of short stories, and two novels, Songdogs and This Side of Brightness, recently published a collection, Everything in This Country Must, a novella and two short stories. He will read from his new book, and offer commentary on the state of Irish fiction today. The book reading will take place at the William Benton Museum of Art on April 13, starting at 7 p.m., and will be followed by a book signing and reception.

McCann, who lives in New York City, set his first novels in the United States, but his most recent book is set in Ireland during the recent "troubles" in the north.

In Everything in This Country Must, McCann reveals the layers of distress that the conflict has caused in Ireland's children.

In the title story, a young girl's sympathy is torn between her Catholic father and the British soldiers who try to save her family horse, after it has smashed itself between river rocks during a flood.

The young hero of "Wood" prepares the flagpoles for a Protestant march, hiding his efforts from his father, who is too ill to protest after a stroke.

And in the novella "Hunger Strike," a boy attempts to mimic the experiences of his uncle, an IRA terrorist progressively weakening on a strike for better living conditions.

The San Francisco Chronicle described McCann as "a fiercely original talent, and a major one." McCann's work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and GQ, among others. He has won the Rooney Award for Irish Literature and the Pushcart Prize. His novel This Side of Brightness was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book, and was selected by the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe as best novel of 1998.

Elizabeth Shanley Gerson, who died in 1997, had a great love of Irish literature and was an avid reader. She earned a bachelor's degree from UConn in 1948 and a master of social work degree in 1978. Gerson, an Irish orphan, and her husband, Louis L. Gerson, long-time chair of the University's political science department, had three children. The Elizabeth Shanley Gerson Memorial Irish Literature program was established by the family in her memory, to bring distinguished Irish writers to Storrs each year to meet with students and faculty and read from their work.

Past speakers have been Edna O'Brien, the first Gerson lecturer in 1998, and the distinguished poet

Eamonn Grennan, who read from his work in Storrs as the second Gerson lecturer in 1999.