Songdogs

Overview

With unreliable memories and scraps of photographs as his only clues, Conor Lyons follows in the tracks of his father, a rootless photographer, as he moved from war-torn Spain, to the barren plains of Mexico, where he met and married Conor's mother, to the American West, and finally back to Ireland, where the marriage and the story reach their heartrending climax. As the narratives of Conor's quest and his parents' lives twine and untwine, Collum McCann creates a mesmerizing evocation of the gulf between memory ...

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Songdogs: A Novel

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Overview

With unreliable memories and scraps of photographs as his only clues, Conor Lyons follows in the tracks of his father, a rootless photographer, as he moved from war-torn Spain, to the barren plains of Mexico, where he met and married Conor's mother, to the American West, and finally back to Ireland, where the marriage and the story reach their heartrending climax. As the narratives of Conor's quest and his parents' lives twine and untwine, Collum McCann creates a mesmerizing evocation of the gulf between memory and imagination, love and loss, past and present.

For years, Conor Lyons has searched in vain for his mother. Now, at 23, he returns to his native Ireland, to find his father fishing obsessively in a polluted local stream. As the narratives of Conor's quest and his parents' tragedy twine and untwine, McCann creates a mesmerizing evocation of the gulf between memory and imagination, love and loss, past and present.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Powerful . . . wistful and gracefully shadowed . . . The author has a keen eye and ear; his language is full of sparkling poetry and images."— Scott Veale, The New York Times Book Review

"Positively vibrates . . . consistently engaging . . . remarkably beautiful."—Peggy O'Brien, The Boston Sunday Globe

"McCann . . . has unusual control over his material . . . McCann's take on the New World is fresh and often amusing, but what we remember most is the poignancy."--Michael Harris, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"An arresting new voice from out of Ireland, at once deep and dazzling."—Edna O'Brien

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Irish writer McCann's first novel is a powerful, sometimes mesmerizing commentary on the nature of family and identity, memory and loss. The story opens with 23-year-old narrator Conor Lyons, just returned to Ireland after a five-year trip abroad, spying on his father fly-fishing in a polluted river. The narrative goes on to detail the young man's week-long visit home, a sojourn that proves important primarily in how it relates to, and evokes, the past-beginning with a reconstruction of the father's life as a photographer and adventurer wandering first through war-wracked Spain and then through Mexico, where he meets and marries Conor's mother. The couple moves to the U.S. and on to Ireland, where the narrator is born. Conor's parents have a turbulent marriage, ending in the mother's mysterious disappearance when Conor is 12; it was to retrace his parents' travels, hoping to find his missing mother, that Conor left his homeland. Focusing on remembrance, McCann links events by mood as much as by date, employing prose of a poetic logic and musical cadence that binds transitions of character, time and place into a cogent melody and pattern. Toward novel's end, we begin to see that Conor's search for his mother in the territory of the past is as futile as his father's quest for a giant fish in a dead river. In a moving climax, the author illustrates that it is the quest for, rather than the attainment of, personal grails that defines and redeems us as individuals. (Oct.)
Library Journal
This first novel by a young Irish writer living in America is a sad, even grim tale of a boy's search for an explanation for the disintegration of his family. Conor Lyons goes to Ireland as a young adult and stays for a time with his father, who now lives in dreary, unkempt circumstances. He tries to discover why his Mam left the family when he was a boy. Part of the mystery seems to lie in the erotic images his father, a wandering photographer, had made of Mam when she was young. The awkward, painful understanding between father and son is the best part of the novel, which, despite almost unrelieved wretchedness, shows considerable promise. For larger collections.-Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va.
Peggy O'Brien
Positively vibrant...consistently engaging....remarkably beautiful, a triumph of style and structure. -- The Boston Sunday Globe
Michael Harris
McCann…has unusual control over his material…McCann's take on the New World is fresh and often amusing, but what we remember most is the poignancy.
—Michael Harris, Los Angeles Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312147419
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 10/15/1996
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 586,649
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Colum McCann

Colum McCann is the author of  books including This Side of Brightness, Zoli, Songdogs and Let the Great World Spin. He has received the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, a Pushcart Prize, and was named the first winner of the Grace Kelly Memorial Foundation Award and the Princess Grace Memorial Literary Award. He lives in New York City.

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