Friday, November 12, 2010

Let the Great World Spin

I have to say that Colum McCann changed my mind about this book as it went along.  It is the Newberry selection for November and I'm leading the discussion next Thursday.  The first chapter had me thinking "oh, crap" because I could not take the list making technique.  It was annoying.  The second chapter made me feel as though I was stuck in a Maeve Binchy story with all the people being interconnected.

But as the book went along I decided that it was really more a collection of short stories and McCann has some really great short stories in this book.  The one where Petit describes his training is amazing.  I felt I was there.  Tillie's turn at storytelling was reminiscent of "Infinite Jest".  The technique of using different narrators to tell the same story can be tricky because you may find a favorite and want to skip others but McCann avoids this by allowing the stories to overlap a little but they really standalone so you have to, and want to, read all of them.

McCann lost me a bit with the last chapter.  Did he end it that way to bring it into the present?  I could have done without that and instead stayed in the past where the shadow of 9/11 remains over the story but not inserted into it.  It could have been more subtle.  What is meant by a 9/11 novel?  One that will cover the actual event?  Or one that references the event?

Do I think this was a good book?  Yes, and parts of it contain great writing.  Would I say read it?  Yes, especially now.  It is perfect for the holidays because you can read each chapter in a chunk and then spend time in holiday activities and then come back to the book.

There used to be a woman who came to our Newberry group who one time said that a book we had just read was ok but not great fiction and was the type of book she would finish and leave in the seat pocket of an airplane.  That is an apt sum-up of "Let the Great World Spin".  Read it, enjoy it and then leave it behind.

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