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Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
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Let the Great World Spin (2009)

by Colum McCann

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4,7812781,453 (3.98)501
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English (267)  Danish (2)  German (2)  French (2)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (279)
Showing 1-5 of 267 (next | show all)
Priests and prostitutes, junkies and judges - all human life is here. A fine novel that uses multiple points of view tell a story of New York in 1974 that reflects New York post 9/11. I'm not entirely sure what Philipp Petit's tightrope walk between the towers is supposed to represent, but somehow it stands for freedom, bravery, living your life your way and everything else important. Outstanding. ( )
  asxz | Mar 13, 2019 |
Only made it about 20 pages in and I couldn't get past the bleak tone, but other than that everything else about it seemed good to me. I may try it again some day.
  badube | Mar 6, 2019 |
I felt this one was lacking, sure, a relief was created against Ulysses and The Instructions; that said, I felt the characters cheap and cloying the story a sigh of history. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
A tightrope walker is on a rope that is suspended between the two towers in lower Manhattan in New York City. It is August of 1974. One would think that this book is mostly about that tightrope walker. But not so for it is about the lives of a variety of people who make New York their home. They are really the ones who are walking the tightrope and their lives seem to be spinning out of control. Thus the title of the book is fulfilled not only in the real tightrope walk but in those other lives. Interestingly enough, the author is able to link the unconventional lives of these characters into a believable although quite unusual plot.

For me, reading this book took quite a bit of focus and thought because understanding how McCann writes about the events, the characters and how they interrelate does not call for light reading. ( )
  Rdglady | Nov 20, 2018 |
Very sweet in place, but the strands seemed utterly disconnected. More like a series of short stories. In addition, given that Petit had the whole city transfixed its scope seems surprisingly narrow. ( )
  alexrichman | Nov 3, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 267 (next | show all)
This is an exceptional performance by a writer whose originality and profound humanity is evident throughout this highly original and wondrous novel.
 
The lousy feeling that you’ve been duped into buying a bogus product increases as you read Let the Great World Spin, and like all chintzy things manufactured for tourists, the book can’t withstand the slightest amount of tensile pressure. Apply a little scrutiny to the artistic decisions being made, and worse and worse details appear, from the awful prose, which ceaselessly pitches and yaws between staccato bursts of words and breathless run-on sentences, to the gaudy, exhibitionist displays of grief. But tackiest of all is the way that McCann deals with his African-American characters, who come off as nothing more than anthropological specimens.
 
It is a mark of the novel’s soaring and largely fulfilled ambition that McCann just keeps rolling out new people, deftly linking each to the next, as his story moves toward its surprising and deeply affecting conclusion.
...
Here and elsewhere, “Let the Great World Spin” can feel like a precursor to another novel of colliding cultures: “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” Tom Wolfe’s classic portrait of New York in the 1980s. But McCann’s effort is less disciplined, more earnest, looser, rougher, more flawed but also more soulful — in other words, more like the city itself.
 
Gritty yet hopeful... in terms of sheer lyricism, McCann pulls out all the stops. My review copy was an absolute mess of Post-its and marked passages by the time I was halfway through.
 
A book so humane in its understanding of original sin that it winds up bestowing what might be called original absolution... a pre-9/11 novel that delivers the sense that so many of the 9/11 novels have missed.
added by jjlong | editEsquire, Tom Junod (Jul 8, 2009)
 
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Epigraph
“All the lives we could live, all the people we will never know, never will be,
they are everywhere. That is what the world is.”

—Aleksandar Hemon,
The Lazarus Project
Dedication
For John, Frank, and Jim.
And, of course, Allison.
First words
Those who saw him hushed.
Quotations
I knew the Catholic hit parade - the Our Father, the Hail Mary - but that was all. I was a raw, quiet child, and God was already a bore to me.
"With all respects to heaven, I like it here."
"But see, this logical God, I don't like him all that much. Even His voice, He's got this voice that I just can't, I don't know, I can't like. I can understand it, but I don't necessarily like it. He's out of my range. But that's no problem. Plenty of times I haven't liked Him. It's good to be at a disturbance with God. Plenty of fine people have been in my place and worse."
There are moments we return to, now and always. Family is like water - it has a memory of what it once filled, always trying to get back to the original stream.
The war was about vanity, he said. It was about old men who couldn't look in the mirror anymore and so they sent the young out to die. War was a get-together of the vain. They wanted it simple - hate your enemy, know nothing of him.
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Book description
In the dawning light of a late-summer morning, the people of lower Manhattan stand hushed, staring up in disbelief at the Twin Towers. It is August 1974, and a mysterious tightrope walker is running, dancing, leaping between the towers, suspended a quarter mile above the ground. In the streets below, a slew of ordinary lives become extraordinary in bestselling novelist Colum McCann’s stunningly intricate portrait of a city and its people.

Let the Great World Spin is the critically acclaimed author’s most ambitious novel yet: a dazzlingly rich vision of the pain, loveliness, mystery, and promise of New York City in the 1970s.

Corrigan, a radical young Irish monk, struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the middle of the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gather in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, only to discover just how much divides them even in grief. A young artist finds herself at the scene of a hit-and-run that sends her own life careening sideways. Tillie, a thirty-eight-year-old grandmother, turns tricks alongside her teenage daughter, determined not only to take care of her family but to prove her own worth.
Elegantly weaving together these and other seemingly disparate lives, McCann’s powerful allegory comes alive in the unforgettable voices of the city’s people, unexpectedly drawn together by hope, beauty, and the “artistic crime of the century.” A sweeping and radical social novel, Let the Great World Spin captures the spirit of America in a time of transition, extraordinary promise, and, in hindsight, heartbreaking innocence. Hailed as a “fiercely original talent” (San Francisco Chronicle), award-winning novelist McCann has delivered a triumphantly American masterpiece that awakens in us a sense of what the novel can achieve, confront, and even heal.
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A rich vision of the pain, loveliness, mystery, and promise of New York City in the 1970s. A radical young Irish monk struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the middle of the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gathers in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, only to discover just how much divides them even in grief. A young artist finds herself at the scene of a hit-and-run that sends her own life careening sideways. A 38-year-old grandmother turns tricks alongside her teenage daughter, determined not only to take care of her family but to prove her own worth. Weaving together these and other seemingly disparate lives, McCann's allegory comes alive in the voices of the city's people, unexpectedly drawn together by hope, beauty, and the "artistic crime of the century"--a mysterious tightrope walker dancing between the Twin Towers.--From publisher's description.… (more)

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