Irish Echo, November 11, 2009, Page 11

Irish Echo clipping July 2-8, 2008, page 20

This Friday evening, novelist Colum McCann and singer-songwriter Joe Hurley bring their collaborative show back to New York City after a successful tour of Europe.

But they aren't the only writers and musicians combining their talents at public events. Novelist Peter Quinn has appeared with academic and traditional musician Mick Moloney on a number of occasions and they plan to work together in the future.

"The link between music and writing is incredibly strong. All of Joyce's work, for instance, resonates with music and song, and he was far from alone," Quinn said. "Every writer I know is immersed in music. I wrote 'Banished Children of Eve' with Stephen Foster's music constantly playing in my head."

He added: "The immedicacy of mood, the poignancy and urgency, the haunting aftereffect - all the essential attributes of music are what novelists struggle to imitate in their work."

"There probably is something in the Irish relationship to words and music that finds them entirely compatible," McCann said. "A story should sing, I suppose. And a song embraces the essence of story."

The Dublin-born writer teamed up with the Londoner Hurley for events promoting his latest novel "Let the Great World Spin," which is a National Book Awards finalist. The partnership worked so well at readings in New York, where they both live, and in Denver, where the book was officially launched, that they agreed to take it on a multi-city tour of Europe.

Said McCann: "It's been fantastic working with Joe. I think he's one of the finest songwriters around and he brings such a passion, depth and charm to his music. Quite frankly, I think he's under-appreciated in New York.

"Personally, I think of him in terms of Tom Waits and Shane McGowan, as a sort of bridge between the two," McCann said. "Literature is a form of music, and vice versa, of course, but the interesting thing to me is that Joe opens up the words and gives them new directions."

The pair worked together on "The House that Horse Built," which is based on a chapter in the book about a 38-year-old prostitute in the Bronx.

Now they are thinking about doing an album. "We keep looking for more time to try and blend five or six other songs together. The sooner the better," McCann said.

"Joe has great empathy, which is what real story-telling is about," the novelist said. "But he's also a stellar performer who can make his music ripple through a crowd. It has been a privilege working with him. You should have seen the crowds in France and Germany when we went on tour together. They were totally enthralled by the blend of music and literature."

"Writing with Colum has been a joy," Hurley said. "We both love to improvise, and some of the writing came while we were riffing, playing on phrases and words until they came to see the light."

The songwriter added: "The novel's characters are so beautifully composed and created, and that presents a huge challenge at first: how to capture them in song and give voice to their yearnings, their struggles, their complex emotional make-up.

"It's been incredible collaborating with Colum so far," Hurley said. "I mean he's one of the world's greatest writers in my opinion, so how could it not be? Trading lines with him is an honor."