July Selection: Let The Great World Spin (2009) by Colum McCann

Here is my selection for our book club meeting on July 9th, 2013:

Today, when we think of New York’s Twin Towers and we envision throngs of New Yorkers looking up into the sky in wonder at an almost unimaginable event that is happening up there, well, we of course think of September 11, 2001.

But 27 years before that date, in August, 1974, a French acrobat named Philippe Petit amazed the world by stringing a cable between the two twin towers and then proceeded to walk from tower to tower, several times, on that thin ribbon of steel. The award winning documentary film, “Man on Wire,” captures that event in a stunning montage.

In June, 2009, Colum McCann published Let the Great World Spin, a novel that uses Petit’s daring, aerial act as the backdrop to a tale of New York and some of its citizens whose lives interconnect in mysterious and moving ways.

Let the Great World Spin won the 2009 U. S. National Book Award for Fiction and the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, one of the writing world’s most prestigious honors.

On July 29, 2009, Jonathan Mahler wrote in a New York Times book review that Let the Great World Spin is “one of the most electric, profound novels I have read in years.” Mahler also said in that review, “Let the Great World Spin will sneak up on you. It begins slowly and quietly on the other side of the ocean. There, in a seaside town in Ireland (McCann was born in Dublin but now lives in New York), we are introduced to two of its central characters, a budding monk named Corrigan and his aimless brother, Ciaran.”

Here’s a link to a New Yorker Fiction podcast from i-tunes:
#15 on that list is Colum McCann reading “Transatlantic.” It is one of the most riveting stories I’ve heard read on that podcast in many a month, and it is one of the stories around which his new novel “Transatlantic” has been constructed.

As we often remind one another when introducing a book selection, I encourage you to resist reading reviews until after you have read novel so that what happens on the page is not given away. However, for some general background about Colum McCann you might want to peruse the article that just appeared in the New York Times Magazine:

This is a summer novel to be savored, surprised by, and eventually discussed at our July 9th meeting. Jim Robbins has graciously offered to open his lovely home to us that morning. I look forward to seeing you there.

Ron Powers


About powersron

I'm a member of the Tacoma Retired Men's Book Club.
This entry was posted in 2013 Selections, Let the Great World Spin and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to July Selection: Let The Great World Spin (2009) by Colum McCann

  1. Jim Robbins says:

  2. Ron Boothe says:

    Redemption through Apricots and Grapefruits

    There is so much to like about LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN. I just want to make one small comment here. The character who leaves us with a sense of redemption and hope for the future at the end of the book is Jaslyn. Twice in the last chapter of the book, Colum McCann uses descriptive language regarding Jaslyn that involves an apricot.

    “Its as if she has bitten into the skin of an apricot.” (page 304)

    “Jaslyn thinks again of an apricot–she does not know why, but that’s what she thinks, the skin of it, the savor, the sweetness. The world spins. We stumble on. It is enough.” (page 322)

    Serendipitously, I have had a copy of Craig Arnold’s poem, MEDITATION ON A GRAPEFRUIT, attached to my refrigerator for the past several weeks because I like to think about it as I start each new day. Here is a link to the poem:



  3. Richard says:

    I would like to share the poem by Robert Frost I mentioned in the meeting: The Tuft of Flowers. http://www.online-literature.com/frost/757/

  4. Ron Powers says:

    February 28th is Colum McCann’s birthday. He is, of course, the author of one of our recent book selections, “Let the Great World Spin.”

    This year, on February 28, 2014, Garrison Keillor talked about Colum McCann for almost his entire five-minute broadcast of “The Writer’s Almanac.”

    In case you missed it, here is that broadcast in its entirety.


    It can be read, or you can click on the “Listen” link in the upper left corner to hear Keillor read it to you.


    Tucson Ron

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