Colum McCann’s “Everything in This Country Must”

 

Colum McCann’s prose has some of the “Old Testament on LSD” lyricism of Cormac McCarthy, but mellowed by a much more linear and human narrative. “Everything in This Country Must” is comprised of two short stories and a novella, all set in the Irish Troubles, all from very different perspectives -in the narrative, political, and religious senses of the word. His fiction reads easy and is felt deeply -not often an easy reconciliation.

The 90-page novella that ends the book was the highlight for me. McCann manages to perfectly capture that nebulous border-sense of a boy in the midst of seeking out his own definition of adult masculinity. Our narrator is still very much a child, a clever boy whose emotional sensitivity is often forced behind his own aggressive and destructive ideals of manliness. He is unreliable and unmoored, and seeks to translate his own pain into the language of those around him.

Books like this one can get lost in the flow for me. I read a lot, and sometimes books that are especially challenging (whether it be for their length, form, disdain for conventions, or what-have-you) tend to stand out most in my memory. This has been one of the greatest advantages of keeping a reading log -the ability to look back and see a great book, wonderfully written, that didn’t force me into an unreasonable struggle. These are good books to have in your life.

Recommendation: Read it. Read the novella “Hunger Strike” first, then turn back to the two stories at the beginning.

 

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