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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Visible Empire
Hannah Pittard
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Robertson Davies
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Let the Great World Spin: A Novel

Let the Great World Spin - Colum McCann In 1974, Philippe Petit walked out between the towers of the World Trade Center with nothing to keep him from falling but the cable beneath his feet. He ran, danced, and even lay down on the wire. He was up there for 45 minutes. And the world watched, holding its breath.Colum McCann highlights Petit's famous stunt in his latest novel Let the Great World Spin. In the shadow of the tightrope walker, various lives intersect in the streets of New York City. They include an artist strung out on cocaine, an Irish missionary, a slew of prostitutes, a grieving Park Avenue mother, among others. Moving back and forth from one character's first-person perspective to another's, McCann effectively nails each voice making up for any confusion the frequent switching causes. With such a great cast and strong voice, it is unfortunate that the novel is split between so many characters, leaving each sorely undeveloped. These characters deserve a full-length novel of their own.Overall, the story is written well, although some of the subplots have little to do with the main story. In the end, I was left scratching my scalp wondering why McCann felt the need to include certain characters (i.e. the grafitti photographer, the California programmers). I kept hoping for a punch which tied them all together, but was left with none.From this one work, I can tell that McCann is a great storyteller and master of creating an interesting character. If one can look past the thin wire holding these stories together, and focus instead on the artist dancing on the line, then one should be able to find enjoyment in Let the Great World Spin.