Let the Great World Spin
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Let the Great World Spin

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3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  58,772 ratings  ·  6,948 reviews
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 Col...more
Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2009)
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Tung
In my classification system, there are books that are readers’ books (they tell an engaging story); there are books that are writers’ books (they are creative in their prose and technically sound); and then there are GREAT books that tell a good story through solid prose. Let the Great World Spin (the 2009 National Book Award winner) is such a book. The book shares the lives of seemingly random New Yorkers in 1974, and how their lives intertwine. At the surface, they seem connected by what happe...more
Jason
I used to really enjoy short story collections. I used to read scary ones in elementary school, depressing ones in high school, and I even read trippy ones in college (thinking I was cool). But sometime during my post-college years, my interest in them began to wane. I don’t know whether this can be ascribed to getting older, but I do know that I now get frustrated with short stories. The time I invest in the setting and the characters, acclimating to the storytelling style and pacing—well, ther...more
Eric
This really may be the first truly profound novel to connect itself with September 11, 2001 and New York City, if only because it does so in such an understated, oblique, and poetically suggestive way. It's also a novel that may take over a hundred pages to truly capture your imagination, but once it does, and once the connective tissue of the disparate group of characters starts to reveal itself, the novel attains a kind of hypnotic and edgy grace for its duration. So richly and deeply are McCa...more
Kemper
A tightrope walker about to pull off one of the biggest stunts ever performed. A committed priest too busy looking out for the downtrodden to take care of himself. A pair of prostitutes who are also mother and daughter. A rich woman crippled by grief and her stoic judge husband. A couple of artists who fled the New York night life. Computer hackers. A brutal car wreck. Slums. Penthouses. Robbery. Charity.

It’s either another day in New York, or it’s the shittiest circus ever.

In 1974, a French ac...more
Aubrey
Have you ever heard Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue'? That first low note of the clarinet that increasingly vibrates on the ground before it jumps high, high to land with a soft boom of drums and a smooth backdrop of horns, a building for the clarinet to continue on with trills and soars, till finally the zenith is reached and the horn sounds its own quavering, the robust tone completing that architecture first sounded by the leaping thrills of the lone clarinet.

I am hardly the first to see this pi...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Reviews, in my opinion, aren't the right place for book reports, nor for nosegays of fanboy gush. I'm supposed to let the reader know why he or she should, could, or would want to read a title.

You should, could, AND would want to read this National Book Award-winning novel of grief, sadness, and loss because it's so damned easy to love and cherish these characters. The Catholic monk whose vocation is to bring a whisper of compassion, in its ancient and literal meaning of "shared pain", to the le...more
Maggie
For a book that's solely supposed to be about characters....I thought all of these characters were amazingly one-dimensional. The self-sacrificing wanna-be priest? The smarter-than-she-looks hooker? The rich lonely Park Ave housewife? Nothing unique or original in there.
Reading it didn't suck really hard, because it's an easy enough read, and there are little splotches of nice writing and insight throughout....but all in all, I didn't get it.
I also didn't get the whole "NYC in the '70s" thing f...more
Deborah Edwards
Life is full of unexpected synchronicities. The kinds of things that occasionally make you feel that you are connected to a greater web of being, a little sign to let you know that you are not in this alone. Two days before I picked up Colum McCann's extraordinary novel "Let The Great World Spin," I watched the equally extraordinary documentary "Man on Wire" for the second time. Philippe Petit, more angel than human, strung a cable across the Twin Towers in 1974 and performed on it for over half...more
Nathan James
I wanted to remember some of the lines from this book so I wrote them in my journal. I haven't read anything in a while that has made me ache. The loss in this book and the admiration the narrators have for the central figure is overwhelming as you read it. The author has obviously lost someone special and has captured that loss on paper. Just gorgeously written, especially the chapters titled Miro, Miro on the Wall and Centavos.

SPOILERS AHOY AHOY

To describe this book would be misleading. It is...more
Matt
"Being on the tightrope is living; everything else is waiting."
-- Karl Wallenda, of the Flying Wallendas.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 are almost ten years old, and yet, the wound is still very raw (for those not directly involved, I mean; for those that were there, the wound is forever). Books and films that have dared touch the subject have done so in one of two ways: with near-stultifying decorum and gravity, which makes art into some kind of vague, patriotic duty; or with obli...more
Catherine Siemann
New York City in 1974 was a run-down, uneasy place, trapped in a spiral of decay. Colum McCann's novel captures the spirit of the place and the people eloquently and movingly, the despair and isolation, the community and the hope. The stories of a disparate group of New Yorkers are linked together by Philippe Petit's tightrope walk between the Twin Towers: a monk working among prostitutes in the Bronx; his brother, newly arrived from Dublin; one of the prositutes; a Park Avenue matron (Claire, p...more
Cheryl
Let the great world spin. And the great world of New York did indeed spin in this book.

How do you view melancholy and heartbreak as something pure and beautiful and riveting and just plain astounding? You read Colum McCann's work, that's how.

It was an orchestra of sorts--the many different voices and narratives. McCann writes with so much lyricism, he makes you want to dance with the tightrope walker the book opens with (taken from the true 1974 story of Philippe Petit, by the way). Three word...more
George
SURPRISING. LUMINESCENT. ENGROSSING.

Despite depressing themes; in gratitude of lambent prose that sparkles and twinkles across the page, Colum McCann’s, ‘Let the Great World Spin’ is a joy to read.

“NOBODY FALLS HALFWAY”
(Pg. 149 -- B&N Digital Edition)

After reading the prologue I thought, “Wow. I’m going to like this novel.” By page fifty-five or so, though, I was ready to give it two stars and lament how I should have known better than to read a book by anyone with ‘Mc’ in their name. Nati...more
Mike Gross
Colum McCann is upper middle-class, white, and has a penis. And this fact shone through in virtually every depiction of the characters he chose to write, every context in which he situated those characters, and the entire tone & voice & style of this book. It was a disappointment for me because it lacked authenticity and quite often bordered on flat-out cheesiness (the slang-talking, ethnic prostitute, it turns out has an IQ of 124! wow, what a unique way to flip the tables on my percept...more
Christopher  Ryan
I despise this book on so many levels. Primarily because it touches upon all the necessary/obvious hot points of recent American history: racism, Vietnam, 9/11, even hammering the latter home by ludicrously having a security guard tell someone they can't use their phone in a fricking airport terminal while waiting for luggage. Also: poverty, religion, class warfare, etc. It's as if some foreign writer came in to write about America and wanted to come away with all its dark secrets by scanning ne...more
Carl
Further update:
Apparently there is an ongoing audience for this review, based on recent comments, and I might have hurt their reading pleasure "cuz" I didn't indicate there were SPOILERS!! Heck, I was just trying to save folks some precious reading time; doubt reading this will affect your like or dislike of the book. But watch for the WARNINGS.


UPDATE.
After some colleagues urged me to try it again, I plowed on, finished it, and am willing to move it up to 3 stars. Well written, but still too dis...more
Chrissie
I just finished Let the Great World Spin. WOW, I loved this book. You read it for the words, the thoughts that arise in you as you listen. You do not read this book for the plot. Maybe even parts are implausible, but that does not lessen the impact of the words. You cannot understand every line as you listen. Impossible. This is a book about life and how it whirls around you and how everything and everyone is interconnected.

How can I describe this book..... it is poetry that does not rhyme. If...more
Joe
This one never quite got off the page for me. Couple of reasons why: 1) The structure of the book--loosely connected novellas and stories--keeps the reader from getting to know any of the characters, constantly introducing new ones just when you get interested in the last, and totally abandoning a few who clearly have a lot more to say. 2) The component parts of the whole felt workshoppy--craft-wise, they're all a little too on the nose, and rarely did McCann offer any surprises to ameliorate ho...more
Eh?Eh!
At first I didn't really like this. It fell into the same category as the movie Crash which spawned a bunch of copycats, a disparate group of people somehow tied together by some event. I did like Crash, which was the first of that sort of movies I'd seen, but every other one seemed too derivative; it's an idea that's only fresh once. Also, this is by an Irish author and opens in Ireland, but while reading this my interest in all things Irish took a nosedive so I was set to be negative towards i...more
Steve
When you google “Let the Great World Spin” together with “weave”, you get something like 130,000 hits. I guess that makes sense. It’s the natural, albeit overused, word for what McCann did so well: tell multiple stories about multiple people with multiple themes, focusing on one point-of-view at a time, but with enough overlap to bind them together. (I tried to come up with a more distinctive metaphor, but my spinning disc with multi-colored curves coming from the center like one of those psyche...more
Lewis Weinstein
This is the current read of our Cayo Hueso Literary Salon. I've just read through the reviews of my GR friends, mostly 4* and 5*. From somewhere among those reviews, I have the thought that this book shows that each of us, at some time in our lives, approaches the high wire of life, if we dare, fraught with opportunity and danger. Now to read the book.

BTW, if you haven't seen it, I recommend you see MAN ON THE WIRE. Netflix has it.

I have read the first chapter, dealing with the two Corrigan brot...more
Arah-Lynda

I had a difficult time getting into this book but in the end I am glad I persevered. It is really a story about New York City in 1974 centered around Phillippe Petit's historic tight rope walk between the two towers of the World Trade Center. But the story itself trancends all that and takes us into the lives of some of the people whose days are coloured by this incredible feat and what unfolds is a powerful,complex tale of life, love, loss and redemption. I don't think I realized just how profo...more
Noce
Sono così dispiaciuta di aver finito di leggerlo, che l'unico modo per goderne ancora è consigliarlo a tutti.

Premessa: molto spesso le mie letture provengono dalla biblioteca. Purtroppo la mia fame “letteraria” non va di pari passo con le mie entrate. Così, i libri che invece decido di acquistare sono il frutto di un lungo corteggiamento, che passa attraverso le recensioni, sguardi fugaci attraverso le vetrine della libreria, ricerca di note sull'autore. A volte prendo delle cantonate incredibil...more
Marco Tamborrino
La sola cosa per cui valeva la pena intristirsi era sapere che a volte in questa vita c'è più bellezza di quanta il mondo possa reggerne.

Ci sono libri che mentre li leggi pensi a quanto ti sarebbe piaciuto se fossi stato tu a scriverli. Libri che, volente o nolente, esercitano su di te una forza, come dire - narrativa? di una potenza inimmaginabile. Un brano specifico può farti scoppiare in lacrime. Quando apri questi libri per la prima volta ancora non lo sai. Alla fine, ti rimangono le emozio...more
Adriana Bate
While this is interestingly constructed and a good story, I was occasionally put off by factual errors or jarring anachronisms of music and fashion. The final nail in the coffin was a reference to a mail carrier lost during Hurricane Katrina because he was so conscientious: "...I found the sack of mail floating...I found out two weeks later that he was caught up high in a treetop just rotting in the heat. In his mailman uniform...I still got his mail here, see?" Mr. McCann, I left New Orleans my...more
Cheryl
A superb writer. Have read at least a couple of his others, but this is the best so far. 10 stars. This is the best book I have read in years. Brilliant. I want to go back and immediately re-read it. The pure celebration of us all. Our stories. There are so many individual stories in the world. Meaningless and full of meaning, all at once. Now to go back and re read it, to savour it more slowly, to study the craftsmanship, the carved swirls, the sleek lines, the artistry at the back as well as t...more
Sandi
Do publisher promote books for the Pulitzer Prize? When I received the advance review copy, that's the first thought I had. It didn't have the final cover art on it, just a plain cover with a bunch of glowing, hyperbolic review excerpts. It's obviously being promoted as a masterpiece. I generally avoid books that receive a lot of hyperbole. Usually, it's just BS. However, "Let the Great World Spin" truly deserves the accolades and I really believe it deserves the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 20...more
Eric Kibler
Perhaps THE best book I've read in the past year. A number of stories intertwine in August of 1974, playing off Philippe Petit's famous outlaw wirewalk on a cable stretched between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The important theme of this book is not that things end, but that things go on. Maybe our lives are like threads a couple of feet long twined into a much longer rope, tied to a chain, attached to a 250-foot length of 450 lb. cable, enabling a stunt that immortalizes a man, a...more
Elisa
L'antidoto a "Chiedi alla polvere"

Separa le tende, apre il triangolo, solleva appena il telaio, avverte un alito di vento sulla pelle: cenere e polvere e luce scacciano l'oscurità dalle cose. [...] Avanziamo incespicando, portiamo un po' di rumore nel silenzio, troviamo in altri di che andare avanti. E' quasi abbastanza.

Colum McCann mi ha fatto sentire a casa. La casa: quel posto in cui puoi rifugiarti, rinchiuderti a rinnegare il mondo intero e un attimo dopo progettare nuovi piani di conqui...more
Mary Helene
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Colum McCann is the author of two collections of short stories and four novels, including "This Side of Brightness,""Dancer" and “Zoli,” all of which were international best-sellers. His newest novel “Let the Great World Spin” will come out in 2009. His fiction has been published in 26 languages and has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, GQ, Paris Review and other places. He has wri...more
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TransAtlantic Dancer Zoli This Side of Brightness Everything in This Country Must

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“The world spins. We stumble on. It is enough.” 1674 likes
“Some people think love is the end of the road, and if you're lucky enough to find it, you stay there. Other people say it just becomes a cliff you drive off, but most people who've been around awhile know it's just a thing that changes day by day, and depending on how much you fight for it, you get it, or you hold on to it, or you lose it, but sometimes it's never even there in the first place.” 173 likes
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