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As for what to take away from it, I think it's the idea that everything is built upon something else. Everything is interconnected, even the smallest moments.

 

And that often the most profound attachments arise from apparent randomness, like Gloria adopting Jasmine's daughters. I too found this book haunting and compelling; McCann writes so evocatively about love and loss.

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Just finished Ask the Dust by John Fante, a slim novel which didn't live up to the extravagant praise I've heard from Bukowski fans. Henry Miller and Hubert Selby did this kind of thing much better.

I'm currently reading Middlesex, has anyone else read it? I remember it being discussed elsewhere and people were criticizing the fact that it won the pulitzer prize. Maybe not Pulitzer Prize worthy

Several of the pieces in Paris to the Moon appeared earlier as Gopnik's monthly Letters from Paris to The New Yorker. His use of adjectives to describe the weather, the neighborhood, etc impressed me

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Colum McCann's Let the great world spin. I'm in the minority, no doubt, and I know Blondie and bloviatrix liked it a lot. Despite the setting when Petit walked a wire connecting the Twin Towers and all the poignancy related to them being there no more, I found this novel terribly dull and long-winded in so many places. There were some very interesting characters, Corrigan, the mixed up monk who shares his apt (to an extent) with some prostitutes near the Bronx's Deegan Expressway, is by far the most interesting. But the 'novel' feels like a set of short stories brought together by some interlocking coincidental meetings on the day of Petit's (hyper cool) gymnastics. If it were not for Petit and 9/11, the book wouldn't amount to much, I don't think. What is the major premise? Let the world spin? = Life goes on? In what meaningful way does it go on and what of the relationships on that day and after? If one is looking for a reflective piece on the accidental meetings of individuals I'd say the movies Sliding Doors and Up in the Air say a little more, but not much. Maybe over to those who liked it. What was there to take way from it?

 

Yvonne, for me it started with the writing. I thought McCann's writing was wonderful. There was something about his imagery - it's been 7 months since I read the book but certain descriptions remain stuck in my head : describing Jasmine's feet - the light soles contrasted with the dark tops. Also in the first chapter at the very end where he describes all the ways to die reminded me of liturgy. There was also something about the way he describes Petit's walk that I found compelling

 

It's very difficult to write a novel like this were there isn't an single, unified narrative. Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad has a similar structure and I didn't like it nearly as much. As for what to take away from it, I think it's the idea that everything is built upon something else. Everything is interconnected, even the smallest moments.

Thanks. I appreciate your take.

 

I agree with you and Cathy that McCann's writing is often evocative and cinematic* (is there any plan to make this into a movie --it might lend itself to that medium). I'll go out on a limb here and suggest that it is probably more difficult to write a novel with a sustained plot and developing characterization** than it is to write this one which is an amalgam of interlocking (and, in my view, superficially and forcefully connected lives). That the stories all took place on the day of and leading up to Petit's walk is interesting enough, but why take the extra step (ha, like Petit) and have them intersect in not very convincing ways? The coda, if you will, in 2006 was well artificial for me and read like McCann was clutching for straws to make longer lasting connections.

 

For the grander theme, everything is interconnected, I agree that this is what McC seems to be going for. But what does that mean? Everyone alive right now is not interconnected. People in small-medium sized groups are connected. On a larger scale what does it mean to say we're inter-connnected, despite globalization and all? And sure we meet people by accident and this can have meaningful repercussions, but what's so meaningful about the accident per se?

 

I can't recall if this is ever touched upon in the novel, but as we all know Petit's walk was no accident and a highly practiced undertaking -- every effort made to accommodate accident and randomness. In stark contrast to the folk's encounters below. Not a big insight by any means but Petit brought all of these characters together by controlling for accident.

 

*I imagine McCann relied a lot on film footage for his bits on Petit's walk. Now't wrong with that, of course.

**In my view, I think character description might be McCann's weakest skill in this book. Maybe Tillie I felt to got to know, but I didn't feel I got to really know the characters. What made them tick mentally etc.

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Joseph O'Neill's Netherland, about a Dutch-born banker who moves first to London and then New York, who finds himself adrift when his wife and son move back to London in the wake of 9/11 and joins a cricket club to help his feelings of loneliness and isolation. A short, well-told story with a memorable set of characters and lots of detail about both cricket and very specific places and events in the NYC of 2002-2003.

 

David Peace's 1974, the first book of the Red Riding quartet. I wanted to read the books because I'd heard how different they were from the mini-series, and that's certainly true. There are events that happen here that don't happen until the 3rd episode of the series, lots of extra characters, etc. It's told entirely in the first person (the perspective of the reporter Eddie Dunford), with short bursts of 1- and 2-sentence paragraphs, making you feel the urgency of the events. I'm looking forward to reading the other 3 books.

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Started reading Cooking: The Quintessential Art (California Studies in Food and Culture) by Pierre Gagnaire and Herve This.. Not a cookbook though there are a few loose recipes involved.. Just 50 pages in or so but, it has raised some really interesting ideas.. Was sad to put the book down at 3 am..

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Cutting for Stone. Beautifully written, and though long, kept my interest all the way through. Some events in the novel are predictable, yet when they actually occurred, I still felt surprised. And I thought the author's occasional bits of humour helped balance the sorrow quite well.

 

I'm looking forward to reading more of his works (he only has two other books out).

 

I've just started Memoirs from the Women's Prison by a woman who was imprisoned in Cairo during Sadat's regime. I'm only a few pages in, so I can only say that the translator seems to have done an excellent job..

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Early Henry James - The American, Daisy Miller, Roderick Hudson. Struck by how fond he is of coincidences and melodrama.

 

Roderick Hudson is his first (substantial) novel, but it's still surprising the extent to which he advances the plot by persistently having characters just bump into each other. Rowland just happens to come across an old friend while walking in the Alps. Amusingly, both Roderick Hudson and Daisy Miller feature scenes where the main character just happens to come across a couple hanging out in the Coliseum.

 

The fascination of Daisy Miller - which is an afternoon's read, very short - is the difficulty in pinning any kind of sense on it. It's not, as so many seem to think, a contrast between European and American manners, because all the characters bar one are American. Nor is the carefully constructed situation (not wanting to spoil) in any way responsible for what happens to Daisy. Her fate is entirely arbitrary. It's a very curious little work.

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The fascination of Daisy Miller - which is an afternoon's read, very short - is the difficulty in pinning any kind of sense on it. It's not, as so many seem to think, a contrast between European and American manners, because all the characters bar one are American. Nor is the carefully constructed situation (not wanting to spoil) in any way responsible for what happens to Daisy. Her fate is entirely arbitrary. It's a very curious little work.

 

Odd how widespread the misreading of Daisy Miller is. I just looked up Edel's account in the biography - and Edel, if anyone, is an authority on James. He too says that Daisy's behavior in going about with a young man and no chaperone contravenes "European" manners. So it might, but it is made quite plain in the text - by Winterbourne's aunt for example - that it contravenes American manners. She says she can't imagine her daughters "at home" doing such a thing.

 

My best idea is that she might represent the first generation children of nouveau riche, "democratic" Americans - and thus "true" Americans - in contrast to European-influenced American society. Anyway, don't matter...

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Chef Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir Blood,Bones and Butter. She's a very fine writer and most evocative, the passages about her childhood and the description of banging out brunch in a restaurant kitchen are especially fine. But I'm not sure, at more than halfway through it, if I'd want to know her.

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