Title: Let the Great World Spin: A Novel
Author: Colum McCann
Release Date: June 23, 2009
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Let the Great World Spin is a set of seemingly disparate stories, set in New York City, 1974. It centers around Philippe Petit’s unsanctioned high wire walk between the two towers of the World Trade Center. There’s Corrigan, the priest who lives among the hookers in the Bronx, and Tillie and Jazzlyn, a mother-daughter prostitute team. Claire is a mother living in a beautiful apartment on Park Avenue with her judge husband, but she can’t get past her son’s death in Vietnam. These stories and more, seemingly random, demonstrate the interconnectedness between all of us.
There’s been a lot of hype about Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin, and after reading it, it’s easy to understand why. McCann takes people from different worlds and varying circumstances and throws them into a story in which everyone is somehow connected to everyone else. It’s thrilling to follow these connections and understand how he weaves each story together, especially since he deals with so many people in such varying situations.
MCann centers the novel around Philippe Petit’s walk between the twin towers, something that actually happened in 1974. This lends an aura of authenticity to the entire book and brings up interesting questions for the reader. While this huge event was happening, what was going on with the people down below, watching the high wire act? The world didn’t stop while Petit was up there on the wire – it kept on spinning. McCann gives the reader a convincing and beautifully written answer to that question.
In some ways, this book is about the appreciation of ordinariness. Each person on the ground is living out their own, mundane existence. Though the lives of hookers in the Bronx and the troubles they must face are likely foreign to the reader, it’s just another day to get through for the characters. McCann shows us the beauty of individual moments and how it is important to value the every day, what goes on in between the earth shaking events.
I enjoyed Let the Great World Spin – I found it to be a wonderful portrait of New York City and a fitting tribute to the twin towers, brought down by the events of 9/11. It’s a great work of literary fiction and I look forward to seeing what McCann does next.