30 Day Book Challenge, contemporary fiction, International Dublin IMPAC Literary Award, Irish Literature, National Book Award Winner, Out of Control? Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann A Review, Postmodernism
30 Book Challenge: Book I Liked Least
I truly wanted to like this book. From its award winning status to the spiritually tormented and enigmatic characters, it delivers many of the aspects I seek in a novel. When I read on wikpedia.com that J.J. Abrams bought the rights for a film adaptation, I was even more disappointed. I LOVE J.J. Abrams, how could I not like this book. Still, even the best and most respected authors write novels a person might not cannot with sometimes. The writing style wasn’t for me and try as I might I couldn’t really relate to the characters.
The story begins with a captivating scene- the entire city of Manhattan stops their morning commute to work, breakfast, school-to gaze toward the sky. A man- no one can be certain who he is, what exactly he is doing, or why-stands atop a skyscraper on the brink of death. Is he attempting suicide or toying with fate for an adrenaline rush? McCann has succeeded in pulling the reader in; I want to know more.
The nameless man fades into the background and characters with faces, lives, and sad stories begin to surface, one after the other. What begins as a mystery turns into a somewhat enthralling history of two Irish brothers: Corrigan and Ciaran. The eldest, Corrigan, has a devout commitment to some spirituality entity, and he makes his way to New York City circa the 1960’s where he does his best to live a ‘pure’ life. McCann depicts the Bronx ghetto Corrigan inhabits and the world of the prostitutes he helps survive the streets in perfect detail. The dichotomy of reasons for Corrigan living among prostitutes, drug addicts, and the poverty stricken is true to life, moving and compelling. In part his motivation is charity, but his brother knows that lack of self- control also plays a key role. Just as Corrigan begins to realize his life as a holy man may not be what he is meant for, and the reader becomes invested in his fall from grace as he he falls head over heels in love, he is killed in a car crash.
It takes an effort to become attached to the characters and story lines (for this reader anyway). Since the stories move so quickly and evolve without reason, the over-all concept of the work isn’t conveyed as fluidly as in other award winning novels. When Corrigan and his women finally began to grow on this reader, I was sad to see them depart. This retreat is not compensated with the arrival new ideas that provide meaning or growth to rival what had passed. With their exit came the arrival of a less likable crowd, the couple who crashed into Corrigan’s van, killing him. The scene is eventful, yet somehow manages to remain mediocre. The pair of cokeheads, Blaine and his wife, are high while driver, Blaine, runs his 1920’s vintage Buick into Corrigan’s van. Next, they decide to run away from the scene of the crime. It isn’t until the wife, who narrates her side of the story in the text, returns to make amends, meeting a grieving Ciaran that the reader begins to warm to her. This, of course, is when she makes her exit.