Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann

19 Aug

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am a big fan of Colum McCann. I’ve been wanting to read Let the Great World Spin for a long time and I finally got around to it this summer. And what did I think of it?

Well, I usually try not to hold on to unnaturally high expectations, but in this case the work was precisely as wonderful as expected. Colum McCann writes in the way I would love to write. He has a very poetic prose style. His use of creative semantics is complemented by his use of unexpected words and phrases to create an offbeat rhythm to his sentences- a quality which I absolutely adore. I love Frank McCourt’s (also a superb contemporary Irish writer)  awesome description of the work as a “groundbreaking, heartbreaking symphony of a novel.”

What really makes this novel great is the way McCann connects his characters in an almost short-story-cycle-esque way. In order to avoid unraveling these connections for those who have not read the book, suffice it to say that the world of the novel is a small world after all. This connectedness works for two reasons: first because it does not seem contrived or put on. There is no trickery or drama involved in the web McCann weaves. It is simple, clear and honest. Second, the characters are constantly resurfacing in different contexts, giving a round quality to characters and situations that can only be achieved when they are seen from multiple perspectives.

Note on the cover art: Absolutely love it! Of course, another positive review (how shocking!). But really- the colors are awesome- the front to back design gives this really gerat feeling of motion and the simple tightrope line suggests exactly what it should. I love it.

“Coming to the city was like entering a tunnel, he said, and finding to your surprise that the light at the end didn’t matter; sometimes, in fact, the tunnel made the light tolerable”

“He felt for a moment uncreated. Another kind of awake.”

“But it was only genius if you thought of it first. A teacher told him that. Genius is lonely.”

“Besides, he wasn’t a man to make frivolous complaints: He kept that powder dry in case he’d heed it at other times”

“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 cligg 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.”


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