O'Connor (left, in a pic at the event by Patricia Jameson-Sammartano) began the evening with an epic account of a book tour for one of his previous works, Desperadoes. We have never seen so many academics laughing so hard at a reading.
O'Connor then introduced Redemption, describing it as a story of the American Civil War. The book is titled after a town in Montana, and the story features multiple characters with Irish and Irish-American connections to the Civil War. While there are four or five main characters, James "Con" O'Keefe, inspired by Irish Brigade commander Thomas Francis Meagher, was featured in the reading. O'Connor is an enthralling reader, one who exudes grace, charm and humor, for example, stating: "Who among us would not rather be making love than reading? What is reading for, if not to help us make love?"
We eagerly await publication of this book; the poetics of O'Connor's prose are vivid, and the characters introduced to us in Star of the Sea deserve continued adventure. During the question-and-answer period, O'Connor said he respected the truth enough to tell the story of "The Fighting 69th" in a fictionalized version; the story will use a similar approach to that of "Star of the Sea," using newspapers, ballads and letters; the stories of the Civil War are an interesting part of the story of Irish assimilation.
Asked how important it was to be in New York City while writing a book like this one, O'Connor said that it was important because near his residence in lower Manhattan he was living amid reminders of that era all the time, living close by Old St. Patrick's Cathedral (built by Irish immigrants in 1809). O'Connor also said that in Manhattan, among the tides of refugees, he found himself constantly reminded of the reality of all wars, as well as racism.
At evening's end, O'Connor disclosed the news that Irish author John McGahern had died in hospital in Dublin earlier that day.
-- Patricia Jameson-Sammartano, WGT Culture Editor