Often, during the course of my interview sessions with Colm Tóibín, which numbered more than a dozen and took place across time zones—he was in Los Angeles, in the Catalan Pyrenees, on the Ballyconnigar coast of his native County Wexford—a disposable fountain pen would dart into view, held in his hand and used to emphasize a point about process or method or about the novel he had been working on before our conversation began and to which, after it had ended, he would return. Tóibín’s friends know that these pens are part of the deal. See Tóibín, see a Pilot V, or more than one—tucked into a jacket pocket, waiting on a desk, scattered like cigarette butts across the kitchen countertop at one of the parties for which his Georgian town house has been legendary in Dublin.
The novel in progress, a sequel to Brooklyn (2009), will be his eleventh. He is also the author of two books of short stories and several collections of essays and literary journalism. A book of poetry, Vinegar Hill, came out this past spring. Even before his debut novel, The South, appeared in 1990, he had published four works of nonfiction—a book about Barcelona, an account of walking the Irish border during one of the most turbulent periods of the Troubles, and a pamphlet on writing and public life and another about the trial of the Argentinian generals. There have been two plays and a screenplay, and the libretto for an opera, The Master, which is based on his 2004 novel about Henry James and was performed in Wexford this past fall.