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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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A look across the pond

Mike McCormack speaking about his novel, “Solar Bones” PHOTO: CHARLEY REKSTIS ’20/THE HAWK

Irish author speaks on the art of fiction writing

Award-winning Irish novelist Mike McCormack did a reading of his 2016 novel, “Solar Bones,” on April 10 in the North Lounge in Campion Student Center.

“Solar Bones” follows protagonist Marcus Conway, a civil engineer, as he reflects on the difficulties of navigating life as a husband, father and citizen of County Mayo in Ireland. McCormack read two excerpts from the novel, one of which describes Marcus’ relationship with his father and coping with his sudden death. The novel is composed of a single sentence written in the form of prose.

“One of the ways that my book is of its culture and against its culture at the same time is the recurring theme of the father in my work,” McCormack said.“There’s probably a good reason for that. I lost my father when I was 18.”

The publisher of “Solar Bones,” Tramp Press, had a complete understanding of the novel and had faith that readers would react positively to it. Tramp Press, launched by Sarah Davis-Goff and Lisa Coen in 2014,  is an independent publisher in Dublin, Ireland.

The novel has since won multiple awards, including an International Dublin Literary Award in 2018.

“I did not think that people would still be talking about it and referencing to it after almost three years,” McCormack said.

Powell compared McCormack’s work to that of Irish novelist James Joyce, from the late 19th to early 20th centuries.

“I don’t think it’s a secret that there is a Joycean influence there, but Joyce is the kind of influence that every Irish writer wrestles with as a father figure of Irish literature,” Powell said.“Mike is doing something new and something different.”

McCormack said during the reading that he wanted to explore the experimental nature of writing fiction while depicting real events in Northern Ireland.

“Literature is the license to go forth and experiment,” McCormack said.“I’d like to think that artistic intent was in part of my project because I see it as an absolutely essential aspect of what it means to be Irish.”

In the Q&A portion of the event, McCormack said that one of his focuses for the novel was the idea of the citizen and political citizenship in literature.

“Some things you don’t question,” McCormack said. “They just pull and steer your pen toward certain things, and one of them is politics.”

In the last few minutes of the session, McCormack gave advice to those with a passion for creative writing.

“Learn to read as a writer,” McCormack said. “If you find yourself reading a book and you find yourself struck with awe and enthusiasm and envy, the wrong thing is to continue on. The right thing is to go back and see how it is built and put together.”

Patricia Darcy ’19, an English major, said that McCormack was attending their Bestsellers and Literary Marketplace graduate course following the event to speak more on the novel.

“The class read the book prior to him coming so we can talk about it, ask questions, see the production aspect of it and the story behind it,” Darcy said.

As an English major with an interest in creative writing, Brittany Baronski ’19, also enrolled in the class, was looking forward to having more time with McCormack.

“I like to get that kind of insight,” Baronski said. “You don’t really get that every day from a real author.”

Powell later said that she found a desire to bring Irish writers to campus through her Irish literature courses each semester.

“There are so many students of Irish descent,” Powell said. “Students who care about where they come from and want to learn all about it. So, just being able to bring Irish writers here is such an amazing opportunity for the students, and it’s something that I’d like to do more of. This is just the beginning.”

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