Where to even begin with a book that manages to bewilder and entertain with the sheer caliber and epic talent and beauty it contains? In, Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann has managed, without ever mentioning the tragedy itself, to write the epitome of a post 9/11 New York City opus. Winner of the 2011 Impac Dublin Literary Award, and deserving in every sense of that honor, McCann has just skipped rungs, whole floors on an artist’s climb to greatness, landing himself with the agility of a funambulist on that lonely, lofty pedestal with this one perfect book.
Beginning with a true and spectacular event in the history of the World Trade Center towers, Frenchman Philippe Petit’s unforgettable walk on a tightrope strung between them on August 7th, 1974, and imagining the lives of a dozen denizens of that city who in one circuitous way or another were all affected by Petit’s theatrics, McCann has written a gorgeous, unforgettable novel, and an artful and poignant commentary on the disconcerting lack which New Yorkers, and Westerners in general, feel in the absence of those twin spires.
He switches deftly from perspective and narrator, giving us a superbly realized and wholly convincing window into the minds of an aging Bronx hooker, a lonely Park Avenue socialite mourning the loss of her son to Vietnam, an Irish Monk turned street crusader who touches us with his failing struggles against the power of his own urges, just to name a few. Nowhere can you find such an eclectic menagerie of odd characters all stirred together in the same chaos and frenetic soup that is New York City as in these pages. Read this book. Now.