The Last Best Book — Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann

On a single day in 1974, New Yorkers were brought together by a startling sight: a man walking a tightrope between the not-quite-finished Twin Towers. Colum McCann’s 2009 novel, Let the Great World Spin, is the story of a dozen or so New Yorkers, most connected in other ways they don’t yet know, or may never know–an Irishman who belongs to an unnamed religious order and serves the prostitutes and the elderly, his brother who comes in search of something and returns to Ireland with a wife–an American artist, a mother and daughter prostitute, two women united by the loss of their sons in Vietnam, and more.

Just a few pages in, I felt green with envy and raw with admiration for McCann’s writing. So accomplished. Such stunning sentences, filled with such surprise. The acrobat’s stunt is a brilliant device, turning the novel not into a historical — if 1974 can be a historical — but into a haunting meditation on a magnificent, wounded city. What tightropes do we all walk? What stairs do we all climb? What happens when we fall? I can hardly wait to read this book again in a few months.

A bonus connection to the topic of this blog: Judge Soderberg’s account of a day in arraignment court, and how he came to the bench.

I found this book when a young friend pressed it into my hands, insisting I read it. You should, too.

(As always, no free review copies on this blog. I borrowed a copy from a brilliant and beautiful 17 year old. Thank you, Hana.)