Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Let the Great World Spin
Let the Great World Spin

Let the Great World Spin is a novel by Colum McCann set in New York City in the United States. The book won the 2009 U.S. National Book Award for Fiction and the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, one of the most lucrative literary prizes in the world. Its title comes from the poem “Locksley Hall” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Let the Great World Spin
Let the Great World Spin: Philippe Petit walks between the World Trade Centre’s Twin Towers, 7 August 1974.

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.

[su_quote cite=”Emma Donoghue, author of The Sealed Letter”]Every character … grabs you by the throat and makes you care. McCann’s dazzling polyphony walks the high wire and succeeds triumphantly.[/su_quote]

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.

Let the Great World Spin
Let the Great World Spin

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.

[su_quote cite=”Buffalo News”]If William Butler Yeats and Allen Ginsberg had written a novel together, it would be this sad, this deep, this urban, this manic and this highly charged.…. McCann’s power – his language, his human understanding, his vision–holds us in an embrace as encompassing as the great world itself.[/su_quote]

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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Those who saw him hushed. On Church Street. Liberty. Cortlandt. West Street. Fulton.
Vesey. It was a silence that heard itself, awful and beautiful. Some thought at first that it
must have been a trick of the light, something to do with the weather, an accident of
shadowfall. Others figured it might be the perfect city joke—stand around and point
upward, until people gathered, tilted their heads, nodded, affirmed, until all were staring
upward at nothing at all, like waiting for the end of a Lenny Bruce gag. But the longer
they watched, the surer they were. He stood at the very edge of the building, shaped
dark against the gray of the morning. A window washer maybe. Or a construction
worker. Or a jumper.

Up there, at the height of a hundred and ten stories, utterly still, a dark toy against the
cloudy sky.

He could only be seen at certain angles so that the watchers had to pause at street
corners, find a gap between buildings, or meander from the shadows to get a view
unobstructed by cornicework, gargoyles, balustrades, roof edges. None of them had yet
made sense of the line strung at his feet from one tower to the other. Rather, it was the
manshape that held them there, their necks craned, torn between the promise of doom
and the disappointment of the ordinary. It was the dilemma of the watchers: they didn’t
want to wait around for nothing at all, some idiot standing on the precipice of the towers,
but they didn’t want to miss the moment either, if he slipped, or got arrested, or dove,
arms stretched.

Around the watchers, the city still made its everyday noises. Car horns. Garbage trucks.
Ferry whistles. The thrum of the subway. The M22 bus pulled in against the sidewalk,
braked, sighed down into a pothole. A flying chocolate wrapper touched against a fire
hydrant. Taxi doors slammed. Bits of trash sparred in the darkest reaches of the
alleyways. Sneakers found their sweetspots. The leather of briefcases rubbed against
trouserlegs. A few umbrella tips clinked against the pavement. Revolving doors pushed
quarters of conversation out into the street. But the watchers could have taken all the
sounds and smashed them down into a single noise and still they wouldn’t have heard
much at all: even when they cursed, it was done quietly, reverently. They found
themselves in small groups together beside the traffic lights on the corner of Church and
Dey; gathered under the awning of Sam’s barbershop; in the doorway of Charlie’s Audio;
a tight little theater of men and women against the railings of St. Paul’s Chapel; elbowing
for space at the windows of the Woolworth Building. Lawyers. Elevator operators.
Doctors. Cleaners. Prep chefs. Diamond merchants. Fish sellers.

Sad- jeaned whores. All of them reassured by the presence of one another. 

Interested? Buy Let the Great World Spin here.


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