Daily Archives: May 27, 2010

TLC Book Tour – Let the Great World Spin

Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann
ISBN: 978-1400063734
368 pages
Published by Random House (June 2009)

I was really happy when I saw that TLC Book Tours was going to tour Let the Great World Spin which won the 2009 National Book Award. Like all well written literature, this novel touches on the larger issues of life. I loved this book which only got better and better as I turned the pages.

I am in New York City this week, taking part in the BEA and Book Blogger Convention, and my husband and I got a chance to see ground zero. McCann’s book is set on that spot before the tragedy of 9-11. It is a fitting place to set this novel about moving forward and life continuing after tragedy; a novel about the connections between people; a novel about the light in the midst of darkness.

While Kip and I walked around the area where the Twin Towers used to stand, we were very moved. There is now only a large crater and the face of a destroyed building on the site…along with cranes and debris. A flag soars high above the ground – a reminder of how our country came together in the face of tragedy.

**Click on any photo to see it in a larger screen

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Read my review.

Hear the author reading an excerpt:

From the author’s website:

An American masterpiece from internationally bestselling novelist Colum McCann—a dazzling and hauntingly rich vision of the loveliness, pain, and mystery of New York City in the 1970s In the dawning light of the late summer morning, the people of lower Manhattan stand hushed, staring up in disbelief at the Twin Towers. . . .

It is August, 1974, and a tightrope walker is running, dancing, leaping between the towers, suspended a quarter-mile in the sky. In the streets below, ordinary lives become extraordinary as award-winning novelist Colum McCann crafts this stunningly realized portrait of a city and its people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Colum McCann is the internationally bestselling author of the novels Let the Great World Spin, Zoli, Dancer, This Side of Brightness, and Songdogs, as well as two critically acclaimed story collections. Published in thirty languages, McCann’s work has been a finalist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Other awards and honors include a Pushcart Prize, the Rooney Prize, the Hennessy Award for Irish Literature, the Irish Independent Hughes and Hughes/Sunday Independent Novel of the Year 2003, and the 2002 Ireland Fund of Monaco Princess Grace Memorial Literary Award. Let the Great World Spin won the 2009 National Book Award.

McCann’s short film Everything in This Country Must was nominated for an Oscar in 2005.

Born in Dublin in 1965, McCann began his career as a journalist in The Irish Press. He currently teaches in the Hunter College MFA Creative Writing Program and lives in New York City with his wife and their three children.

Visit the author’s website.

Listen to the author speak about his novel Let the Great World Spin:

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Random House for the opportunity to tour this wonderful book.


Let the Great World Spin – Book Review

Tacked inside his cabin door was a sign: NOBODY FALLS HALFWAY.

He believed in walking beautifully, elegantly. It had to work as a kind of faith that he would get to the other side. He had fallen only once while training – once exactly, so he felt it couldn’t happen again, it was beyond possibility. A single flaw was necessary anyway. In any work of beauty there had to be one small thread left hanging. – from Let the Great World Spin, page 160 –

On August 7, 1974 Philippe Petit – a 24 year old daredevil –  walked a tightrope wire strung between the twin towers 1350 feet above New York City. His feat stunned New Yorkers who marveled at the ease at which he traversed the wire – not once, but seven or eight times – before handing himself over to police. It is this event which opens Colum McCann’s novel Let the Great World Spin – a novel less about New York City and more about the connections between people and how life continues forward despite unfathomable loss.

Let the Great World Spin introduces nearly a dozen characters to the reader who at first seem unconnected. But as McCann allows them to tell their stories in alternating chapters, the synchronicity of their lives begins to unfold.  At first it seems they are only related to each other through the feat of the tightrope walker – it is only by reading through to the end of the novel that the reader recognizes their connections on a deeper level.

It had never occurred to me before but everything in New York is built upon another thing, nothing is entirely by itself, each thing as strange as the last, and connected. – from Let the Great World Spin, page 306 –

John Corrigan is a spiritual man who immigrates to America. He finds himself living in the Bronx among the prostitutes and pimps, the crime and the poverty. He is a gentle man who is searching for a greater meaning. His character represents the quest for the simple things in our lives which bring comfort and beauty – the yearning for light in the darkness.

What Corrigan wanted was a fully believable God, one you could find in the grime of the everyday. The comfort he got from the hard, cold truth – the filth, the war, the poverty – was that life could be capable of small beauties. He wasn’t interested in the glorious tales of the afterlife or the notions of a honey-soaked heaven. To him that was a dressing room for hell. Rather he consoled himself with the fact that, in the real world, when he looked closely into the darkness he might find the presence of a light, damaged and bruised, but a little light all the same. – from Let the Great World Spin, page 20 –

Throughout the novel, the reader is reminded of the darkness in the world – the wars, addiction, crime. A judge finds himself cynical and overwhelmed despite his desire to make a positive difference in the world. A group of women meet each week to share the stories of their sons who have died in the Vietnam War.  A prostitute examines her life from behind the bars of a prison cell.

Every now and then the city shook its soul out. It assailed you with an image, or a day, or a crime, or a terror, or a beauty so difficult to wrap your mind around that you had to shake your head in disbelief. – from Let the Great World Spin, page 247 –

My big tall boy, shaving. Long ago, long ago. The simple things come back to us. They rest for a moment by our ribcages then suddenly reach in and twist our hearts a notch backward. – from Let the Great World Spin, page 81 –

Yet, McCann does not leave his readers in the darkness. The novel is also full of hope and that little bit of light which Corrigan seeks. At its heart, Let the Great World Spin is about moving forward despite the flaws in our world, overcoming our losses, and leaning on each other.

It was America, after all. The sort of place where you should be allowed to walk as high as you wanted. – from Let the Great World Spin, page 262 –

When the twin towers fell on September 11, 2001 New York gasped, mourned, hugged each other closer, and then kept on going. That resoluteness in the face of unspeakable tragedy is mirrored in McCann’s book. The prose is rich, the characters infused with grace and courage, and I found myself drinking in the story, letting it wash over me.

McCann’s novel also takes a look at a pivotal point in American history – the final year of the Vietnam War, a war which took a huge toll on young lives, and forced us to look deeply at what brings us into conflict and the cost of such decisions. Decades later, it seems we are still learning the same lessons, and so it seems fitting that the final pages of Let the Great World Spin take place in 2002, as America totters on the cusp of yet another controversial war.

Colum McCann won the 2009 National Book Award for Let the Great World Spin – and it is easy to see why. This is a complex novel peopled with unforgettable characters.

Highly recommended.

Visit my blog tour for this book.

Read more great reviews of this book through the TLC Book Tours website.

**FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for a book review tour.

Book Expo: May 26, 2010

**Click on any photos in this post to enjoy a larger view

Wednesday marked the first day of the exhibition part of the BEA and I have to say, it was overwhelming and exciting. Kip and I got up at 5:00 AM to get to the Javits by 6:00 AM to get tickets for a couple of author signings (Jan Brett and Joyce Carol Oates). We were delighted to discover Serena and Anna (along with “the girl”) just in front of us in the line (later Heather also joined us).

The exhibit hall opened at 9:00 AM, so we sat around drinking coffee and talking, talking, talking…so fun!

The masses of people who swamped the exhibit hall beginning at 9:00 was incredible. I met up with Lisa Roe while waiting in the autograph area (she is as animated and lovely in person as on her blog and in her emails!):

I missed getting Joyce Carol Oates autograph when she failed to show up for her signing (they gave us the book unsigned), and then meandered over to Other Press to meet Mitchell Kaplan who was delightful. I also met Caroline Leavitt and picked up a signed copy of her book.

I made sure to stop by the Unbridled Books Booth to meet Caitlin Summie – she feels like such a friend after all these months of working with her and it was great to give her a giant hug and sit and talk with her.

I did not get to visit any of the stages or presentations…there was just too much to see and do on the exhibit floor. After lunch I met Jan Brett and picked up a signed copy of her latest book. It is gorgeous!

After dodging the crowds and talking to authors, publicists and other bloggers…Kip and I finally crashed at around 3:00 pm. The last few days caught up to us (and the backpack was getting to weighted down with books for Kip), so we headed back to the hotel and collapsed on the bed for a 2.5 hour nap! Here are the books I picked up on Wednesday:

  • The Rain Song, by Janice Grove
  • Bamboo People, by Mitali Perkins (signed)
  • The Gendarme, by Mark T. Mustian
  • I Curse the River of Time, by Per Petterson
  • The Things That Need Doing, by Sean Manning (signed)
  • Mr. Toppit, by Charles Elton
  • The Pages, by Murray Bail
  • Pictures of You, by Caroline Leavitt (signed)
  • Alzheimer’s Care With Dignity, by Frank Fuerst (signed)

  • Crossing Antarctica, by Will Steger (signed)
  • The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, by Benjamin Hale
  • Room, by Emma Donoghue
  • Sourland, by Joyce Carol Oates
  • The Man in the Wooden Hat, by Jane Gardam
  • Sudan, by Art Ayris and Ninie Hammon
  • The Blessings of the Animals, by Katrina Kittle
  • Bone China, by Roma Tearne

After our much needed nap, it was time to get up, get showered, grab some dinner and head to the Algonquin Hotel for the Harper Collins Celebration of Book Bloggers.

The Harper Collins event was buzzing – there were so many bloggers there that it was hard to talk above the noise of all the chit chat. I was thrilled to meet Simon Van Booy who handed me a signed book of his short story collection Love Begins in Winter (remember how much I loved that book?!). Simon is funny and easy to talk with and it was such an honor to meet him.

And of course, I met LOTS of the bloggers whose blogs I love and read every day:

Amy, Natasha and me

Me, Kathy, Jill and Dawn

Nat (Tanabata) and me

Candace (Beth Fish), me, Rebecca, and Swapna

Me and Avis

Later on Kip, me and Avis moved down to the elegant bar at the Algonquin and laughed and shared stories until well after midnight!

And of course, what would a book blogger event be without a few books:

  • Love Begins in Winter, by Simon Van Booy (signed)
  • Manhood for Amateurs, by Michael Chabon
  • Up From the Blue, by Susan Henderson

Wow, what an incredible day of books, meeting friends, and making new acquaintances. And there is still TWO days left!

Book Expo: May 25, 2010

Things have been SO busy that I am late posting updates…but I am going to go ahead and post the day to day happenings here in New York anyway!

On Tuesday Kip and I met up with a friend from Library Thing and had breakfast before heading out to a tour at the Penguin publishing house. I am not even going to attempt to list all the publicists we met! But Shannon Twomey, Senior Publicist with Penguin/Viking, gave our group of bloggers a thorough, book-filled tour; and I finally got to meet Lydia Hirt in person. I should have counted up the number of bloggers who attended, but I didn’t think to do it at the time. I’m going to guess it was about 15 to 18 of us. I was thrilled to see Jill from Fizzy Thoughts and finally meet Swapna from S. Krishna’s Books and Lenore at Presenting Lenore. I also picked up business cards from several other “new to me” bloggers.

Penguin is huge. We got a handout listing all their imprints and contacts for each imprint. We also picked up catalogs of all the up and coming books and I felt a bit faint thumbing through them!

We met with several publicists from various imprints in a large conference room where everyone introduced themselves. The publicists had lots of questions, such as: How much lead time do bloggers like in terms of getting review copies? Do we want to be “pitched” or would we rather request from catalogs? And what types of books are we looking to review? They also love getting our links to reviews (since Google Alerts are not always 100% reliable).

Once again, we picked up some great books:

The Divorce Party, by Laura Dave

Sima’s Undergarments for Women, by Ilana Stanger-Ross

Lake Wobegon Summer 1956, by Rebecca Goldstein

Why Dogs Eat Poop, by Francesca Gould and David Haviland (Tarcher/Penguin)

Every Dog Has A Gift, by Rachel McPherson (Tarcher/Penguin)

Through Black Spruce, by Joseph Boyden

Stay tuned for my post-BEA wrap ups (in the next couple of weeks) and ticklers of all the books mentioned here!

After the tour, Kip and I headed into Greenwich Village to grab some lunch and walk around the shops. Then we headed back to our hotel room for a little “down time” before going to the Javits to catch the opening ceremony of the BEA with Barbra Steisand promoting her new book My Passion For Design (due for release in November 2010). The interview with her was enlightening – I guess I had never realized how much of a perfectionist Streisand is (she actually matches the color of the flowers in her outside gardens to the colors of the rooms which overlook them!).

After the headliner event, Kip and I trudged back to our hotel and fell into bed to get a good night’s rest…and to anticipate Wednesday’s exhibit events!