The No Vampire Book Club is reading Let the Great World Spin for September. I’ve never read anything by Colum McCann and I haven’t been this delighted to find an author since being introduced to Brady Udall’s work. McCann’s storytelling is so delicate and poignant — I’ve found myself shaking my head in agreement, re-reading sections out loud to hear the words flow together with precision, and ultimately, with just 50 pages left last night — putting the book away so I could savor it for one more day.
Let the Great World Spin is excellent. It is a story about fictional characters of New York City on August 7, 1974 who were touched by the true story of Philippe Petit — the World Trade Center tightrope walker. The story spins in a dozen different directions, from the vantage of characters as different as an Irish Catholic Priest to a Jewish judge to a Ohio-born, Bronx-living mother-daughter prostitute team. And, in a true work of genius, each character’s story is more interesting than the one before.
McCann’s writing reminds me in a way of Jhumpa Lahiri’s. Lyrical but without pretense and truly entertaining. I cannot wait to read more of his writing. This was a delightful escape from the summer heat of Phoenix into the humid, big-city life of New York in the mid-1970s. Five out of five bananas, absoloodle.
A few of my favorite excerpts:
“What Corrigan wanted was a fully believable God, one you could find in the grime of the everyday. The comfort he got from the hard, cold truth — the filth, the war the poverty — was that life could be capable of small beauties. He wasn’t interested in the glorious tales of the afterlife or the notions of a honey-soaked heaven. To him that was dressing room for hell. Rather he consoled himself with the fact that, in the real world, when he looked closely into the darkness he might find the presence of a light, damaged and bruised, but a little light all the same. He wanted, quite simply, for the world ot be a better place, and he was in the habit of hoping for it. Out of that came some sort of triumph that went beyond theological proof, ca cause for optimism against all the evidence.”
“Family is like water — it has a memory of what it once filled, always trying to get back to the original stream.”
“I was the first n—- absolute regular on that stroll. They called me Rosa Parks. They used to say I was a chewing-gum spot. Black. And on the pavement.”
“That was the sort of everyday love I had to learn to contend with: if you grow up with it, it’s hard to think you’ll ever match it. I use dot think it was difficult for children of folks who really loved each other, hard to get out from under that skin because sometimes it’s just so comfortable you don’t want to have to develop your own.”
There is such joy in finding a new writer to admire. I wish there was a word that captured this exact feeling of delicious happiness — hungry to learn, consume, admire, and roll around in the art of a new mentor. It’s like climbing a mountain only to see a series of peaks just beyond that are also calling your name.