Colum McCann

I've got Let the Great World Spin next in my queue. Anyone feel like jumping onboard and chatting about it the next week or two or three?

(If so, you can find me in this post! I'll be here talking to myself.)


Grendel said...

You're on! Timing is perfect.

dunkeys said...

What happened to that other commenter? I was excited about what he had to offer.

I'm about 70 pages in; it's interesting (but just coincidental) that last book-chat I was part of here was similar (European coming to NYC).

-- the opening few pages of the first chapter are so nicely literary, the descriptions of Sandypoint, the ocean, mirroring the characters' feelings, etc. It's like "classic" literary which seems rare in contemporary lit, at least in what I read. I like those moments quite a bit. Nostalgia points, Ireland points.

-- slows in NY quite a bit

-- and this isn't on McCann, but that guy who tightroped over the WTCs annoyed me to no end in the documentary released a few years ago. The act: great. The guy: lame.

Grendel said...

I'll try and pick up the book at the library today.

Grendel said...

I'm about 85 pages in. Not sure what I think yet. It's beautiful, but slow, but poetic, but slightly annoying in some way I can't articulate. I find myself nodding impatiently, muttering, "Yeah, yeah, get on with it." Lotta description. Kinda boring. I don't really look forward to picking it up. I did sometimes in the first 60 pages or so. You're right about the first pages in Ireland. A little bit Joycean, Woolfish. Corrigan is a great character. Was.

dunkeys said...

The end of the Corrigan section -- the sentence-by-sentence spliced scenes of the accident/the narrator going back to the apartment -- was too stylized for me (in terms of the rest of the novel).

It's an interesting novel, as he's trying different styles on from section to section. Usually I'd think that's a great ambition . . . but the novel's also basically content-ordinary, so the sprawling styles work against the content (unlike, say, 2666, which is stylistically all over the place in a way that matches the content).

I'm also ambivalent about reading more (though I will). I think this has to do with the fact that it's really a collage in disguise: there's absolutely no central tension whatsoever.

Cynically, I'm thinking this won the NBA because of setting more than anything else. Place it in Portland? St. Louis? Anywhere US but NY (or maybe New Orleans) and we've never heard of it.

I prefer Netherland, to this point.

Grendel said...

Dare we throw in the towel?

Gotta tell you, I found The Golden Compass for fifty cents at a library sale. It waits patiently. But do I? What if I get crushed by a tractor tomorrow?

dunkeys said...

I'll try to finish it and add another comment or two, but definitely don't be guilted into joining. Let your inner compass guide you, man!

dunkeys said...

Very affecting twenty pages near the end of the first section, between Ciaran and Lara. I thought to myself, "Those first 130 pages really paid off here." But then I wondered if it could have been equally as affecting *without* the first 130 pages. And I think, yes, it could have been.

The tightrope walker stuff is strange. Because of Man on Wire, we know the guy was real. We know he was French. We know he didn't practice in Montana with coyotes prancing in the yard. Yet McCann's fictionalizing and giving him an entirely new (American) identity. It bugs me: why stop there? Why not invent street names in New York, for example? When do you just say, to hell with reality? I think he did it too soon.

I wonder how McCann felt about that movie; he must have been deeply into the novel when it came out.

dunkeys said...

I need the closure, at least, so a few thoughts: fragmented works (as Let the Great World Spin is) are interesting, aren't they? They work because they 'trust the reader' so much to see connections -- between distant characters, between space and time, between action and emotion. And yet that's a dodge on the author's part -- let the reader do the lifting rather than writing it out yourself.

It's fun to imagine fragmented stories, to imagine the resonance in the unwritten gaps: a four section story, first, an older man golfing alone in a thunderstorm, despite lightning warnings . . . then a woman worried stuck in traffic and rain, worried about getting home late, missing the news . . . a brainy weird college kid in an atmospheric sciences class . . . and maybe some sort of scene of a father being angry at his son's crazy weather balloon experiment . . . or whatever.

As a reader it's great to draw connections. As a writer it's great to be lazy. I can't think of too many fragmented works that I sincerely think are 'great' -- they're more experiments, right? Even Invisible Cities is a game. The Savage Detectives, maybe.

Grendel said...

Sounds like you didn't hate it -- high praise from the Dunkster. Maybe I will finish it. Would you recommend that? (Meanwhile I read The Golden Compass in two days. Kinda disappointed. Dunno what I was expecting -- some astonishing and deep heresy? It's just a pretty good children's book.)

Would you count Cloud Atlas as a fragmented work? Did you ever read Ghostwritten? Mitchell's first novel, which I enjoyed very much. That one is definitely fragmented -- very enjoyable for the reader to piece it together. (Reading his new one now -- too early to tell much about it yet.)

Sorry I didn't go all the way with you. Okay, that came out wrong.

dunkeys said...

I'm a hater, then? Then I'm a hater.

I didn't really like the McCann, but I totally understand that it's likable. It's good if you like that sort of sweeping "this is a deeply meaningful place and time with a large cast of characters" . . . yet fragmented novel. And set in New York.

I didn't like Ghostwritten but I should give it (and Cloud Atlas) another chance.

Next up: this oddball named Ander Monson.

Also, Malena Watrous has a novel out, one my better half endorses.