Thursday, August 20, 2009

Let the Great World Spin

Let the Great World Spin
by Colum McCann
Random House, 2009. 349 pgs. Fiction

Colum McCann begins this novel with a prescient quote from Aleksandar Hemon: "All the lives we could live, all the people we will never know, never will be, they are everywhere. That is what the world is." And indeed, McCann's glorious work is filled with voices--authentic voices--of people on the ground in New York City on the day Phillipe Petit was in the sky, walking a tightrope between the not-quite-completed twin towers of the World Trade Center. Petit's story weaves in and out of the other's: Corrigan, the Irish monk whose felt call is to the streetwalkers of the Bronx; the prostitutes themselves whose lives are richer and more terrible than one could know; the support group of women whose sons have died in Vietnam, linked to the judge in what will become the Petit case, and so on. How McCann brings all these people to life and makes their separate lives into one story is incomprehensible to me, but he does. If this book doesn't win the Pulitzer, someone needs to be smacked. (Caveat lector: The language and experiences are as raw as they need to be from time to time.)

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