Honoring my mother at Villanova, and how I came to own three copies of Colum McCann's novel, Transatlantic

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


We honored my mother last evening at Villanova University—the Lore Kephart '86 Distinguished Historians Lecture Series being one of my father's lasting gifts in her memory. Ray Takeyh, PhD, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, spoke brilliantly (and with appreciated sparks of humor) on "Iran in Transition." An early meal with Paul Rosier, who chairs Villanova University's History Department, Paul Steege, who helped identify Dr. Takeyh as a speaker, the wonderful Reverend Kail Ellis, and so many special Villanovans got the evening off to a fabulous start. My sister came with her dear daughter Claire. My blue-eyed brother arrived and entertained. My father wore one of his many beautiful ties and was the elegant man that he is.

And then there was the moment, early on, when Father Peter M. Donohue, the charismatic president of Villanova, mentioned that there was a certain writer also in the house last evening at Connelly Center. An Irishman, he said.

Not Colum McCann, I said.

Yes. Colum McCann, he said.

A raised eyebrow. A rapidly beating heart. A blurt: Colum McCann is my third favorite writer, I said.

Which would sound like a compliment to anyone who has seen the hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of books in my house. There's a lot of competition. Only Michael Ondaatje and Alice McDermott stand above.

I had read McCann's newest, Transatlantic, the week it came out, and had written of it here. That didn't matter. A young man named Daniel disappeared and returned with a copy of the novel, signed Colum McCann. Later, Father Peter himself greeted me with a second copy of the book, this time signed specifically to me.

I told him he is your third favorite writer, Father Pete said.

You didn't, I said.

Oh yes I did.

A good man never lies. A good reader should never rank.

Thank you to Villanova University, Father Pete, Reverend Ellis, Paul Rosier, Paul Steege, Diane Brocchi, Ray Takeyh, and everyone else who made last night a success. Thank you to my father for having this idea in the first place.

And special thanks to Elizabeth Mosier, Chris Mills, and Nazie Dana, who made the night even more glorious.


2 comments:

Serena said...

How wonderful. I'd love to meet McCann some time. I haven't read transatlantic yet, but I will sometime before the end of the year now that I have a copy. I really liked Let the Great World Spin!

kelly said...

I love this story. LOVE. LOVE LOVE. This is my favorite blog post of yours ever!Glad it was a memorable night as well as a meaningful one.

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