Let the Great World Spin
A NovelBook - 2009 | First Canadian edition.
Set in 1974, Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin captures the spirit of an age -- when Nixon resigned, soldiers returned home from Vietnam, the oil crisis was at its peak and the technology of computers emerged on the horizon. But it is also a brilliant reflection of the present, with its examination of faith, art, love and belonging.
The novel begins one August morning as a tightrope walker makes his way, through the dawn light, between the World Trade Center towers, stunning thousands of watchers below. Using the true story of Philippe Petit as a pull-through metaphor, McCann crafts a portrait of a city and a people. Corrigan, a radical, young Irish monk, struggles with his demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gathers in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who have died in Vietnam, only to discover how much divides them even in their grief. Farther uptown, Tillie, a 38-year-old grandmother, turns tricks alongside her teenage daughter, determined to not only take care of her "babies" but also to prove her own worth.
Elegantly weaving together these, and other, seemingly disparate lives, McCann's powerful allegory of 9/11 comes alive in the unforgettable voices of the city's people, unexpectedly drawn together by hope, beauty and the tightrope walker's "artistic crime of the century." McCann's most ambitious work to date has already been hailed as an American masterpiece.
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A row of smokers stood out in front of Metropolitan Hospital on Ninety-eighth and First Avenue. Each looked like his last cigarette, ashen and ready to fall. Through the swinging doors, the receiving room was full to capacity. Another cloud of smoke inside. Patches of blood on the floor. Junkies strung out along the benches. It was the type of hospital that looked like it needed a hospital.
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