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Let the Great World Spin: A Novel by Colum…
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Let the Great World Spin: A Novel (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Colum McCann

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,6033041,562 (3.98)522
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 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. 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. The city's people are unexpectedly drawn together by hope, beauty, and the "artistic crime of the century"--a mysterious tightrope walker dancing between the Twin Towers.--From publisher description.… (more)
Member:lauralkeet
Title:Let the Great World Spin: A Novel
Authors:Colum McCann
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2009), Edition: 1st Edition/1st Printing, Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:Removed from Library, North American
Rating:****
Tags:read in 2010, fiction, swapped, american authors

Work Information

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (2009)

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» See also 522 mentions

English (292)  French (3)  Dutch (2)  Danish (2)  German (2)  Norwegian (1)  Italian (1)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (305)
Showing 1-5 of 292 (next | show all)
This book is a mixed bag for me. I very much enjoyed the beginning and the first few chapters. I felt drawn into the story of brothers from Ireland, Corrie and Ciaran. Corrie is a priest living in proximity to a group of prostitutes and drug addicts. Ciaran arrives later and cannot quite approve of how Corrie is living. After a promising start, it becomes a loosely connected series of short stories, some of which appealed to me while others decidedly did not. The wire walker is not the main focus of this book. He serves more as a symbolic figure. Just as I was getting interested in one storyline, it abruptly shifts to something completely different. One of the characters I cared about disappears early on. There are lots of coincidences. The further I got into the book, the less I enjoyed it. I much preferred and recommend McCann’s [b:Apeirogon|50732671|Apeirogon|Colum McCann|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1577772020l/50732671._SX50_SY75_.jpg|71466820] and [b:Dancer|110896|Dancer|Colum McCann|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1312004781l/110896._SX50_.jpg|2247523]. ( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
Maybe I'm just a detached millennial leftist but 9/11 is just not that interesting of a topic ( )
  bluestraveler | Aug 15, 2022 |
Blown away. Incredible writing. Will definitely be reading more of Mr. McCann. ( )
  btbell_lt | Aug 1, 2022 |
Fascinated with the overlapping of characters along a time line. Very well written. ( )
  LeahWiederspahn | Jun 2, 2022 |
I loved this book, but it is for the experienced readers among us. The composition is complex, with each chapter from a different point of view. Sometimes needed to read almost a whole page before I figured out whose point of view it was. The plot is very nuanced, and seen from various angles. The only difficulty I had was the somewhat stereotypical characters like the hookers, Claire and even Corrigan. It was well worth reading. ( )
  Marietje.Halbertsma | Jan 9, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 292 (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)
 

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Colum McCannprimary authorall editionscalculated
Doyle, GerardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Monda, CarolNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ocampo, Ramon deNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parker, JohannaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Poe, RichardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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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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Wikipedia in English (2)

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 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. 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. The city's people are unexpectedly drawn together by hope, beauty, and the "artistic crime of the century"--a mysterious tightrope walker dancing between the Twin Towers.--From publisher description.

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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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