Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Let the Great World Spin

Great World Spin
By Colum McCann

Read this book on a device on my bike trip from Minneapolis to Chicago. It is a book that travels back and forth through time and place as if straddling a tightrope.

A tightrope is one of the main focal points of the book—a story that spans the World Trade Towers and a dozen lives in between.

It begins and ends in Ireland, but the majority of action takes place in Brooklyn. Prostitutes waiting for customers under a highway overpass and the kind-hearted priest who doesn’t exactly save them, far from it, but offers them a place where they can pee, clean up, if even momentarily before going back out to hustle.

It seems like such a mundane thing, hardly a luxury or hand up/out. A service so small and yet human.

“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 backwards.”

McCann through a series of sketches, some spanning 50 or more pages, connects disparate characters that seemingly have no connection to one another. Like the people we pass on the streets every day. Yet certain moments stand out and draw us together. The author draws upon these moments and memories to carve out a story that twists in our ribcages.

“We seldom know what we’re hearing when we hear something for the first time, but one thing is certain: we hear it as we’ll never hear it again. We return to the moment to experience, I suppose, but we can never really find it, only its memory, the faintest imprint of what it really was, what it meant.”

It is these moments that we can render into flash. Go back, go back, go back to the thought before the thought, to the instinct before the action. The feeling. How it felt. Write about that.

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