I’ll try my damnedest to post about a book I’m reading every Wednesday. This should keep me on my toes, because while I used to read a book every week I have fallen behind. Let’s not get all excited, this does require some effort on my part, and you know how I feel about effort.
This Week: Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
Remember 9/11? Of course you do. Well, this is something of an allegory. No spoilers here, just the general flow of the story. McCann has crafted a story set somewhere in the very early 70s. It starts out in Ireland, maybe in the 1950s to early 60s, but only for a few pages. It rapidly moves to New York City, when America has become disillusioned by the war in Vietnam and everybody seems to be trying to forget it. The focus is on a mix of characters, a Jesuit who lives among whores and heroin addicts, his brother who drops in for a visit, an artistic couple, a mother trying to work through the grief of losing her son in a war that may or may not mean anything, and of course the hookers (a focus on one in particular). In the middle of it all is some guy who is training his body to complete a performance that will not be forgotten (hint: it involves the illegal act of walking across a high wire stretched between what would become World Trade Center).
Down below, these characters cope, and while that is a simplistic analysis, it is true to the story. It is a story about how people cope with tragedy. First, one of the brothers, then one of the prostitutes, the mother of a dead soldier-who should never have been a soldier, and the artist couple. Their lives are reflected in the high wire walker (does he make it?) and ends many years later, where the story began.
The drive of the story is the shared background of the Corrigan brothers. One, an altruistic Jesuit seeking out meaning, able to connect with the discarded people, and very much misunderstood. The other, a disenchanted and suspicious loner. One is able to see through flaws and hope, while the other is able to roll with the punches and expect more. Then there is the grieving mother of privilege. She is somehow adrift in her marriage to a respected judge, and is confused how her husband can move on despite the tragedy that came upon them, while she is a regular attendant at a self-help group. The hookers are always on the lookout for something that resembles joy, and find it from time to time. The artistic couple is struggling to find a way to create, at least one of them, while the other has suddenly been sucked into a malaise. In the meantime the fledgling internet technology use of phone lines reveals an America that will soon change (think personal computers and geeks sitting in a lab somewhere in California figuring out how to hack pay phones, which have sadly all but vanished).
If you are looking for some theology, you will find it hidden (and pretty much blatant at times). If you want drama, it is definitely there, and skillfully woven. If you should find yourself craving gunplay, don’t bother, this is literary fiction (I’m working on it, as soon as I figure out how to combine the two it’s a done deal, until then Lonesome Dove is all you got).
Who should read it:
People that like literary fiction, people that read “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter”, and those that don’t mind novels where the pace changes (fast to slow and back again).
It is a quick read (despite its appearance), and you find yourself immersed in some of the characters and time period. You will probably look up the phone freaking thing, and discover it did start at about that time. And yes, some guy did complete the high wire stunt for real back in the 1970s.
Drink: Probably wine, and then maybe microbrew out of Seattle
Next Week: The Apostle by Brad Thor
It’s a shoot ’em up military thriller. Not my cup of mojo, but what the hell, I’ll give it a shot.