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Amazon Best of the Month, June 2009: Colum McCann has worked some exquisite magic with Let the Great World Spin, conjuring a novel of electromagnetic force that defies gravity. It's August of 1974, a summer "hot and serious and full of death and betrayal," and Watergate and the Vietnam War make the world feel precarious. A stunned hush pauses the cacophonous universe of New York City as a man on a cable walks (repeatedly) between World Trade Center towers. This extraordinary, real-life feat by French funambulist Philippe Petit becomes the touchstone for stories that briefly submerge you in ten varied and intense lives--a street priest, heroin-addicted hookers, mothers mourning sons lost in war, young artists, a Park Avenue judge. All their lives are ordinary and unforgettable, overlapping at the edges, occasionally converging. And when they coalesce in the final pages, the moment hums with such grace that its memory might tighten your throat weeks later. You might find yourself paused, considering the universe of lives one city contains in any slice of time, each of us a singular world, sometimes passing close enough to touch or collide, to birth a new generation or kill it, sending out ripples, leaving residue, an imprint, marking each other, our city, the very air--compassionately or callously, unable to see all the damage we do or heal. And most of us stumbling, just trying not to trip, or step in something awful.
But then someone does something extraordinary, like dancing on a cable strung 110 stories in the air, or imagining a magnificent novel that lifts us up for a sky-scraping, dizzy glimpse of something greater: the sordid grandeur of this whirling world, "bigger than its buildings, bigger than its inhabitants." --Mari MalcolmAmazon Exclusive: Frank McCourt on Let the Great World Spin
Trust me, this is the sort of book that you will take off your shelf over and over again as the years go along. It’s a story of the early 1970s, but it’s also the story of our present times. And it is, in many ways, a story of a moment of lasting redemption even in the face of all the evidence.
There are dozens of intimate tales and threads at the core of Let the Great World Spin. On one level there’s the tightrope walker making his way across the World Trade Center towers. But as the novel goes along the “walker” becomes less and less of a focal point and we begin to care more about the people down below, on the pavement, in the ordinary throes of their existence. There’s an Irish monk living in the Bronx projects. There’s a Park Avenue mother in mourning for her dead son, who was blown up in the cafés of Saigon. There are the original computer hackers who "visit" New York in an early echo of the Internet. There’s an artist who has learn to return to the simplicity of love. And then--in possibly the book’s wildest and most ambitious section--there’s a Bronx hooker who has brought up her children in “the house that horse built”--“horse” of course being the heroin that was ubiquitous in the '70s.
All the voices feel realized and authentic and the writing floats along. This was my city back then--and now. McCann has written about New York before, but never quite as piercingly or as provocatively as this. This is fiction that gets the heart thumping.
The stories are interweaved so that it is one story, on one day, in one city, and yet it is also a history of the present time. In Let the Great World Spin, you can’t ignore the overtones for today: suffice it to say that the novel is held together by an act of redemption and beauty. I didn’t want to stop turning the pages.
I’m really not sure what McCann will do after this, but this is a great New York book, not just for New Yorkers but for anyone who walks any sort of tightrope at all. And yes, it doesn’t surprise me that it takes an Irishman to capture the heart of the city... --Frank McCourt(Photo © Kit DeFever)
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann is a lovely, lovely read, lyrical and beautifully written.
Some of the short stories were interesting, but, most were based too much on the characters introspection and thoughts with very little real story.
I started reading this book on a plane and for the first time ever, I didn't want the flight to end because I wanted to keep reading.
It seems that a lot of people really liked this book but I did not. I thought the characters were unbalanced. Too many depressing stories. Read morePublished 13 hours ago by Diane Walters
This is a wonderful, uplifting novel, which I am planning to read again.Published 6 days ago by noreen conklin
He is very annoying because he starts each persons chapter without the reader having a clue as to who is speaking. All the way through. Would not read another book of hisPublished 17 days ago by a e naylon
I was fascinated and delighted each time I discovered the thread connecting one story to the others. I also loved the power of whimsy to lift us out of ourselves. Read morePublished 19 days ago by Nancy J. Schewe
The story drew me in immediately and I became very intrigued and invested in the character Corrigan and how he "wanted other people's pain. Read morePublished 21 days ago by momof3
Unfinished story lines. Interesting characters developed but not all carried through. Some what confusing. Wanted more from the reading if the bookPublished 26 days ago by barbara houston
I am an avid reader and I consider this novel to be among the very best I have ever read. Don't hesitate to read it, it will stay with you long after you finish it. Read morePublished 27 days ago by Michael Bass
Interesting and effective structure of interwoven stories. Poetic internal dialogues. Pain but redemption at the end.Published 28 days ago by Margaret Dawson