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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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4,6872731,444 (3.98)492
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English (262)  Danish (2)  German (2)  French (2)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (274)
Showing 1-5 of 262 (next | show all)
Finally, a book with interconnected characters that is well written and that works! Great stories that combine to tell a beautiful story. Fascinating characters I loved and wanted to follow. ( )
  Rdra1962 | Aug 1, 2018 |
And another half star. I saw the 'Man on Wire' documentary before the 2001 Twin Towers attack and was already entranced. I guess from the acknowledgements that the author put a great deal of work into the content and construction of this book - and it shows in the best way possible - it seems so natural and effortless, almost as if he gave it a start and then it wrote itself. Written 35 years after Philippe Petit walked the wire it opens my eyes to the great differences - my world of 1974 with today and my world with New York then. And how extraordinary people are - any chance person you meet will have such a complex history, family, future. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | May 27, 2018 |
NYC — 1974 tightrope walker bet. W Trade Blg's
Many stories intertwined
Irish brother priest (unconventional)
Brooklyn w/ Hooters —
NYC light tunnel — light at end makes in bearable — like Belief in God?
Mom's of Vietnam Dead group — common ground — Car Accident Victims/Judge
Pg 349 "world spins we stumble on — it's enough"
Pg 247-8 — Duty always forward looking class pix — Big — plane — man on wire

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.

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.
  christinejoseph | May 20, 2018 |
This was great. Not without its faults—it's very talky, more tell than show—but it's got a huge heart and the writing is terrific. I kept thinking it was one of the best 9/11 novels I've read, although that's only glancingly alluded to at the very end—which is what makes it work as such. I am not an easy sell on the 9/11 thing.

I was finishing up the last few pages on the train in to work this morning and there was one tiny vignette—I'm not going to spoil it, but it's one of my favorite old Bronx anecdotes—and for whatever reason, I found myself with tears running down my cheeks. Not because it was sad, but because the emotion in this book ran so close to the surface for me. I think the setting must have a lot to do with it—various storylines in mid-70s NYC, all circling around Philippe Petit's tightrope walk between the two WTC towers—but McCann also obviously loves his characters so much, it's contagious. ( )
  lisapeet | Apr 29, 2018 |
An ambitious and complex novel set in New York in 1974. Each chapter tells the story of a different character, and it gradually becomes clear that they are much more linked than seems the case early on. McCann's characters are rounded and sympathetic, covering a wide cross section of New York society.

The central inspiration is Philippe Petit's high wire walk between the towers of the World Trade Centre, and his story has a symbolic resonance that links the remaining tales of survival.

If I have a slight criticism it is that the last chapter, set in 2006, ties up the loose ends a little too neatly, but overall this was a very rewarding read. ( )
  bodachliath | Feb 23, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 262 (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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