- Paperback: 544 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial (Dec 13 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1443412317
- ISBN-13: 978-1443412315
- Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 3.1 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 386 g
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #5,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Let The Great World Spin Paperback – Dec 13 2011
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About the Author
COLUM McCANN is the internationally bestselling author of seven novels and three collections of stories. His most recent novel, TransAtlantic, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and his previous novel, Let the Great World Spin, won the National Book Award and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His fiction has been published in thirty-five languages. He lives in New York City with his wife and their three children.
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"Literature can remind us that not all life is already written down: there are still so many stories to be told."
Let The Great World Spin intertwines the stories of several remarkable and yet ordinary people's lives, how they intersect with each other over the passage of time, and how life can be changed in a matter of seconds by people who don't even know us. In it he is able to punctuate the fact that no matter how bad our heart is broken the world doesn't stop for our grief so it is essential to realize that love, joy and the journey is all there is. "Our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are but we are responsible for who we become."
We see the world through the eyes of Corrigan, an Irish priest who lives in the bowels of the burning Bronx surrounded by hookers and have-nots as he struggles with whether or not he will fail God if he breaks his vows and gives in to his love for a Guatemalan woman named Adelita. We meet Corrigan's brother Ciaran and later, his wife Lara, as well as the hookers that Corrigan tries to help in modest ways. There is Tillie Henderson, a 38-year-old hooker whose daughter Jazzlyn walks the streets in her footsteps, and Jazzlyn's two young daughters who may or may not have a future.
On the other side of the city, a group of mothers who are mourning the loss of their sons to the Vietnam War gather in a Park Avenue apartment to share their stories. We are particularly captivated by Claire and Gloria who are as unlikely to be friends as two people can be and yet they find peace with each other. Gloria was my favourite character because her strength and integrity is inspirational, but it is hard not to love something about every one of them.
"A big smile went between us. Something that we knew about each other, that we'd be friends now, there wasn't much could take it from us, we were on that road. I could lower her down into my life and she could probably survive it. And she could lower me into hers and I could rummage around. I reached across and held her hand. I had no fear now. I could taste a tincture of iron in my throat, like I had bitten my tongue and it had bled, but it was pleasing. The lights skittered by. I was reminded how, as a child, I used to drop flowers into large bottles of ink. The flowers would float on the surface for a moment and then the stem would get swamped, and then the petals, and they would bloom with dark."
The characters have a depth, honesty and beauty that come alive with such truth that it seems inconceivable that McCann created them from his imagination. All but one character, the tightrope walker, who was based on the true story of Philippe Petit, are works of fiction, but in some ways they are more real than many people I have known.
While it has been described as the "first great 9/11 novel", the New York City of 1974 that McCann describes with his magical, eloquent prose is as alive in every sense on the page as the pulse within my wrist. He also takes the readers with him back to Dublin, Ireland where we not only discover Corrigan's history, but McCann's as well.
Winner of the National Book Award as well as a plethora of stupendously positive and prestigious reviews, Let The Great World Spin should become a classic for the ages and have as much longevity and relevance as The Catcher In The Rye. I often buy novels by Irish authors and leave them on my shelves unread for years while I'm distracted by other books. I purchased two other works by McCann ages ago: Everything In This Country Must (which was also an Oscar nominated Dramatic Short by McCann) and This Side of Brightness, but haven't read them. Now that I've fallen in love with this author they have moved into a new position near the top of my must read list.
If you read one book this year, let it be this one.
I have (an admittedly arbitrary) way of looking at different craftspeople.
There are vocalists...and then there are singers.
There are guitar players...and then there are guitarists.
There are people who write...and then there are writers.
Molly Ringwald is a person who writes. Colum McCann is a writer.
Both of them have taken short stories about an assembly of characters and woven them together. 'Overlap' is the theme of the day.
I believe Mr. McCann succeeds in telling a good story more than Ms Ringwald. (Although I don't believe the device served even his tale well. Oh, and I could have done without almost all the material about the two Irish brothers in NYC.)
He certainly has more chops; I think there were a tiny handful of sections in hers where I sat back in admiration, whereas his contained all kinds of gems. (A couple of them were stellar, reminiscent of Frank DeLillo's beaut, the opening forty-or-so pages of 'Underworld'.) I felt I was in the company of someone with substantial talent, and was entertained by his skill and passion...if not necessarily by the overall story arc.
I'd love to have heard him do a reading when the novel was first released.
Picture James Joyce working with Kurt Vonnegut. Envision James Joyce without the wordiness. Picture Kurt Vonnegut without the science fiction. Experience reciprocative action without moralism. That's the strength of "Let the Great world Spin."
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