Every Atom | No. 59

Colum McCann

Introduction to Every Atom by project curator Brian Clements

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Nobody today is only one thing. We are onward and outward. We are so much more than any one label. We are Muslim, we are Christian, we are atheists, we are Jewish, we are Buddhists, and all of these, and none of these, we are Irish, we are Palestinian, we are Mexican, we are Indonesian, we are in between all of that, we are straight and we are gay and we are male and female and non-conforming and endless in all directions. Nothing collapses or perhaps everything does: into one another. Why is it that we allow others to label us in the exclusive? Why have we come indoors and shut the curtains on everyone outside? Who have you met who is exclusively white? Who have you met who is exclusively Western? Who have you met who is exclusively Asian? We cannot deny the long traditions and the languages and the geographies, but we also cannot deny that they collapse into one another, and that this collapse is a celebration away from fear and prejudice. Whitman knew that life was not about separation and that survival, in fact, was about the connections between things. There are a lot of echoes along the riverbank. Our is a contrapuntal world. Listen. There’s the music while it lasts. 

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Colum McCann is the internationally best-selling author of six novels, including Let the Great World Spin, winner of the 2009 National Book Award, and three story collections. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Letters and co-founder of the global charity Narrative 4 (narrative4.com). He teaches at Hunter College in NYC.


Cover art by Brian Pals