Having focused on modern and contemporary American literature, I was amazed to find that I had somehow overlooked Colum McCann’s writing until only recently. I’d heard of Zoli, and have been meaning to read it for many years now, but it has somehow never made it home with me. It’s supposed to be one of the best historical fiction books about Gypsies in World War II Europe, and after reading Let the Great World Spin I cannot wait to get my hands on McCann’s other books.
With an entirely new time period, cast of characters, and tone, Let the Great World Spin ultimately tells the tale of an unnamed thrill seeker who, on a quest for bigger and greater challenges, finds himself walking, running, dancing, and laying on a tightrope suspended over 100 stories in the air between the twin towers. The novel strives to reveal the slowly spreading reactions of the audience as it spreads from street corner to street corner, then to the news reports on tv, into the court house, and then into the minds and narratives of the bustling city of NYC. The slowness of people to recognize what was happening above their heads reminded me of just how ingrained it is for us to view the world in view limited to people and shaped by our expectations/definitions of normal. The thrill seeker, by placing himself in an unexpected space, is arguably challenging the confines of the human view and also challenging the assumption that what he is doing is actually a performance. If it is out of the scope of view of his audience, I find myself re-thinking his motives and, yet again, who this adrenaline junkie is and why he has worked so hard for this single stunt.
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