Colum McCann

Brendan Bourke

Colum McCann

Past Event: Thursday, May 24, 2012

At Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

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Literary Arts

Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, Colum McCann, at 21, paid a “brief” visit to Cape Cod to write a “great Irish-American novel.” Writer’s block led to a bicycle trip across the U.S. lasting a year and a half. “It was an extraordinary journey,” McCann says. “It taught me the value of stories and story-tellers.”

In 1988, McCann returned to the United States, where he worked as a wilderness guide at a juvenile detention center before attending the University of Texas.

In 1994, McCann moved to New York. “I feel inordinately blessed,” McCann says. “I live here in the city, but I can hear the voice of Ireland in almost everything. I suppose if I had to label myself I’d like to be seen as an international writer.” McCann’s work covers international territory: the troubles in Northern Ireland (Everything in This Country Must), the Roma culture in Europe (Zoli), the ambitions of an artist in Soviet Russia (Dancer). His latest novel, Let the Great World Spin, has been heralded as “the first great 9/11 novel” by Esquire Magazine. “I love the fact that our stories can cross all sorts of borders and boundaries,” says McCann…I don’t know of a greater privilege than being allowed to tell a story, or to listen to a story. They’re the only thing we have that can trump life itself.” To one New York Times reviewer, McCann’s approach most closely resembles that of “a great pitcher in his prime…. McCann is constantly changing speeds, adopting different voices, tones and narrative styles as he shifts between story lines.”

McCann’s talk on May 24 is entitled “Get Lost! Losing & Finding Yourself in the Art of the Story.”

Q&A with Colum McCann

What is your idea of happiness?

My dead grandfather touching me on the shoulder and telling me that it’s time for us to go out for a drink.

With which historical figure do you most identify? I have recently spent a lot of time trying to write myself into the mind of Frederick Douglass, the American slave and abolitionist, who was in Ireland in 1845. I have enormous admiration for him and his quest for justice. I am not sure I can identify with him, but I would like to think that I understand him. I triumph him.      What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Chastity of course. (If anybody ever still thinks of it as a virtue). Temperance. Prudence. I am fond of the Thoreau quote: “We should go forth on the shortest journey, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return …”     What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Being around those people who believe they’ve never met anyone more interesting than themselves.  What is your most marked characteristic? An ability to believe in optimism in the face of all other available evidence.  Who are your favorite writers? Oh, an impossible impossible question. I like those writers who break my heart.

Read more about McCann on his official website.

Event Details

Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

200 University Street
Seattle, WA 98101

View directions.

Transportation & Parking

This event will be held in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, the largest event space at Benaroya Hall. 

Benaroya Hall is located at 200 University Street, directly across Second Avenue from the Seattle Art Museum. The public entrance to Benaroya Hall is along Third Avenue.

By Car

  • From Southbound I-5
    Take the Union Street exit (#165B). Continue onto Union Street and proceed approximately five blocks to Second Avenue. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5
    Exit left onto Seneca Street (exit #165). Proceed two blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5 via Westbound I-90
    Take the 2C exit for I-5 North. Follow signs for Madison Street/Convention Place and merge right onto Seventh Avenue. Turn left onto Madison Street. Proceed three blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue four blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.

By Public Transit (Bus & Light Rail)
Benaroya Hall is served by numerous bus routes. Digital reader boards along Third Avenue display real-time bus arrival information. For details and trip planning tools, call Metro Rider Information at 206.553.3000 (voice) or 206.684.1739 (TDD), or visit Metro online. The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, served by light rail, has a stop just below the Hall (University Street Station).

The 430-car underground garage at Benaroya Hall provides direct access from the enclosed parking area into the Hall via elevators leading to The Boeing Company Gallery. Enter the garage on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street. Maximum vehicle height is 6’8″. Blink charging stations are available for electric vehicles. The event rate is $16.

Parking is also available at:

  • The Cobb Building (enter on University Street between Third and Fourth avenues).
  • The Russell Investments Center (enter on Union Street between First and Second avenues).
  • There are many other garages within a one-block radius of Benaroya Hall, along with numerous on-street parking options.


Open Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where a captioning screen displaying the words that are spoken or sung is placed on stage. This option is present at every event at Benaroya Hall in our 2019/20 Season.

Assisted Listening Devices (ALDs) are devices that people with hearing loss use in conjunction with their hearing device (hearing aids or cochlear implants). Benaroya Hall has an infrared hearing system, which transmits sound by light beams. Headsets are available in The Boeing Company Gallery coat check and the Head Usher stations in both lobbies.

Sign Language Interpretation is available upon request for Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing individuals. To make a request for ASL interpretation, please contact us at or 206.621.2230×10. Please note: we appreciate a two-week advance notice to allow us time to secure interpretation.

Wheelchair Accessible Seating and Accessible Restrooms are available in all sections at our venues, and our venues are fully accessible to ticket holders with physical mobility concerns. Guide and service dogs are also welcome. Among other features, Benaroya Hall has designated parking spaces adjacent to elevators in their parking garage. Elevators with Braille signage go to all levels within the Hall. A unisex restroom is also available. For more details on their accessibility features, click here.

We are pleased to offer these accessibility services at our venues, and they are provided at no additional cost to ticket holders. Please contact us with any questions and feedback about how we can be more accessible and inclusive.  Our Patron Services Manager is available at, or Monday-Thursday from 10:00am – 5:00pm, and Fridays from 10:00am – 1:00pm, at 206.621.2230×10.