Let the Great World Spin
Let The Great World Spin, the sixth novel by Colum McCann, is a hurricane of a book, whirling around the streets of New York and beyond, capturing souls within its twists, carrying them high in the air, rattling their very bones until their secrets and shameful pasts, their moments of kindness and generosity, pour onto the ground below and define the people of a borough, a city, a country and a world without judgment or prejudice, but with the compassion and humanity that only a great writer can provide.
This is a novel which explores the lives of its multiple participants, from the grieving housewife to the addicted artist, the unconventional cleric to the prostitute brought low by the law, through different and challenging forms of language, bringing each one to life in sometimes broken, sometimes elegant dialect. Each personal history, each moment of candour and vulnerability, forms a vibrant philosophy, which roots itself in the story, providing a solid foundation upon which the novel is built.
The writing is instantly beautiful. Fine, acute, precise. McCann does what he wants with syntax, allowing it to breathe, to soar, to march in the most unexpected directions. It offers a sense of language being liberated and yet it remains utterly under the control of a creator who knows when to make it whisper quietly in our ears and when to set it free to roar in the colloquialisms of its characters.
It is a novel whose structure is both complex and engaging. It is daring. The stories are interweaved in a way that always retains the reader’s interest. There is suspense, unexpected moments of tenderness within the howl, unpredicted threats of violence beneath the calm.
This is a remarkable literary work, a genuinely 21st Century novel that speaks to its time but is not enslaved by it. The human condition, the kindness and cruelty shown from one man to another, the ways in which we suffer and triumph, are subjects which have resonated through fiction for centuries. In each generation, writers explore these themes and rephrase the questions that our humanity asks of us. There are few answers in this novel. Its beguiling nature leaves the reader with as much uncertainty as we feel throughout our lives, but therein lies the power of fiction and of this book in particular.
In the opening pages of Let The Great World Spin, the people of New York City stand breathless and overwhelmed as a great artist dazzles them in a realm that seemed impossible until that moment; Colum McCann does the same thing in this novel, leaving the reader just as stunned as the New Yorkers, just as moved and just as grateful.
New York, August 1974: a man is walking in the sky. Between the newly built Twin Towers, the man twirls through the air. Far below, the lives of complete strangers spin towards each other: Corrigan, a radical Irish monk working in the Bronx; Claire, a delicate Upper East Side housewife reeling from the death of her son; Lara, a drug-addled young artist; Gloria, solid and proud despite decades of hardship; Tillie, a hooker who used to dream of a better life; and Jazzlyn, her beautiful daughter raised on promises that reach beyond the skyline of New York. In the shadow of one reckless and beautiful act, these disparate lives will collide, and be transformed for ever.
NOMINATING LIBRARY COMMENTS
A ground-breaking, heart breaking, novel about New York at its “wild time” from a wonderfully skilled writer. Set against a time of sweeping political and social change.
With Philippe Petit’s 1974 tightrope walk between the World Trade Centre Towers, McCann crafts a stunning portrait of New York City. A wonderfully written novel, very close in its observation of human longings and desires.
Outstanding literary merit. Popular among library staff and readers.
McCann’s most ambitious work to date. This is a story of interweaving lives on one day, in one city, New York, – a passionate and gritty work.
Let the Great World Spin is richly deserving of all the critical acclaim it has received and ensures Colum McCann his place as one of the great Irish authors of all time. The writing is so wonderfully moving you will want to savour every word.
It seems a much longer book because it is so packed with the griefs, passions, hopes and heartbreaks of the sometimes interlinked characters under the grace and beauty of Petit’s tightrope walk. Wonderful ending.
In 1974 a tightrope artist walked between NYC’s twin towers to the amazement of onlookers from all walks of life. McCann seamlessly weaves together their stories from Park Avenue to the Bronx in this breathtaking achievement.
With an immigrant’s refreshing sense of awe, during the waning days of Nixon and Vietnam, New York in the 1970’s is presented through deftly linked characters.