Those who saw him hushed.
Let The Great World Spin
by Colum McCann
Let the Great World Spin was a favorite with my book club in 2010 and ended up on my top ten favorite reads list that year. Here's my review.
I want to make two points about Colum McCann's novel Let The Great World Spin. First, it's an excellent example of how movies have influenced literature. In the 1960's Robert Altman started making movies with ensemble casts, like M*A*S*H and his early masterpiece Nashville. These movies featured a wide range of characters each involved in their own plot. Their paths crossed during the movie, sometimes dramatically, sometimes subtly, but their plots remained their own. Robert Altman continues to make movies like this and many other directors have followed his example from Paul Thomas Anderson with Magnolia to Paul Haggis with Crash to Alejandro González Iñárritu's Amores Perros and Babel. The point in each being that our lives are interconnected in ways we cannot completely understand. Six degrees of separation. I won't be at all surprised when someday soon the characters in one movie begin to appear in another.
In Mr. McCann's wonderful novel, Let The Great World Spin, the connections hang by a thread, or rather a reinforced steel cable. A radical clergyman who lives among the prostitutes in the rougher parts of New York City's Bronx neighborhood, an uptown woman living in an East Side penthouse apartment, a twice divorced mother who has lost three sons to the war in Vietnam, and a tightrope walker who dreams of stretching his cable between the towers of the almost finished World Trade Center along with their friends and family make the cast of narrators in Let The Great World Spin.
The second point I want to make about Let The Great World Spin is how much I found Mr. McCann's writing to match his description of one of his characters:
She rose and went to the record player. I couldn't see the sleeve of the record she took out. She cleaned the vinyl with a soft yellow cloth and then she lifted the needle. She did everything small as if it was extraordinary and necessary.
Mr. McCann writes everything small, as if it is extraordinary and necessary and he writes it all well enough to show that it is, in fact, extraordinary and necessary even when it seems like something inconsequential.
Full Disclosure: I received a copy of Let the Great World Spin free from the publisher and there is a very good chance that this book will end up on my favorite reads of 2010 list.