Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Book Review: Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann
When I began reading Let The Great World Spin, by Colum McCann, I wasn't feeling overly enthusiastic because I had recently finished another novel about New York City that also prominently features the twin towers, although in very different capacities. However, despite a slow start, Let The Great World Spin is a quite different, and in my opinion, far superior novel, to Joseph O'Neill's Netherland. It is set in 1974, back when New York City was gritty and violent and untamed, and on this particular day, a French acrobat walked on a tightrope between the twin towers, stunning onlookers and the authorities. A series of events that occur on this single day string together an ever-increasing number of the city's inhabitants- an Irish priest, immigrants, prostitutes, artists, judges, and Park Street wives. The beauty of the book is the characters themselves; author Colum McCann presents them without judgement and makes them come alive. The biggest complaint I had about Netherland is that everything seemed too cold and distant, and I was happy to find the opposite to be true in Let The Great World Spin- you care about the characters because they are so vivid, so real. I thought it was great and deserving of the 2009 National Book Award for fiction. Here's the New York Times review.