Traverse City Record-Eagle

Arts & Entertainment

May 31, 2013

National Book Award winner, O books editor make TC stop

TRAVERSE CITY — Leigh Haber had already decided to spotlight Colum McCann’s latest book in O magazine when Doug Stanton approached her about interviewing McCann on the National Writers Series stage.

“It really was wonderful serendipity,” said Haber, books editor at O, The Oprah Magazine, and the guest host for the June 6 National Writers Series program featuring McCann. The event begins at 7 p.m. at the City Opera House, with doors opening at 6 p.m.

McCann is the Irish-born author of the National Book Award-winning novel “Let the Great World Spin.” His new book, “TransAtlantic,” is set for release June 4 and weaves fact and fiction, history and past in a story that spans 150 years and two continents — North America and Ireland. Real and imagined characters include black American slave Frederick Douglass, who lands in Ireland in 1845 to champion ideas of democracy and freedom; John Alcock and “Teddy” Brown, two young airmen who emerge from World War One in 1919 to pilot the first transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to the west of Ireland; and American senator George Mitchell, who criss-crosses the ocean in 1998 in search of a lasting Irish peace.

Haber said she selected the book to feature in the June issue of O magazine from hundreds of books she receives in galley form every week. The Oprah nod is “huge” in publishing, said National Writers Series co-founder Doug Stanton.

“I think that what connected with us about Colum’s new book is that it has this rare combination of soaring language, a story that’s told like nobody else has told it before, and then being riveted while reading it and coming away being a little transformed by it,” said Haber, who held editorial roles at Chronicle Books, Scribner, Hyperion and Rodale before arriving at O magazine in September. “In this case, I love the idea of Colum being an immigrant, an Irish storyteller, but clearly embracing New York, the U.S. and American history and threading it back to Ireland. I think you can feel that kind of exhilaration of discovering the way to narrate it. The exuberance, that joy, is what we loved about the book.”

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