Colum McCann

An Irishman living in New York, Colum McCann captured that city during a distant yet resonant era in his National Book Award-winning 2009 novel Let the Great World Spin. He begins with the ragged, near bankrupt metropolis of 1974, at the very moment when Philippe Petit is about to wire-walk between the towers of the World Trade Center. Packed with characters (including two rivalrous Irish brothers), the novel expands panoramically, as if viewed by the unnamed Petit himself, 110 stories above. Below lies a city of strivers and survivors. There are miserable addicts and compassionate priests, moments of kindness and rank stupidity. Things seem on the verge of collapse, despite the heroics overhead—and dozens of smaller instances of courage and love that go unreported on the ground. (The next year would bring the famous "Ford to City: Drop Dead" headline in the Daily News.) But if Let the Great World Spin has a theme, it's the connectedness of New Yorkers: All those flawed citizens have a collective strength, like the wires in the cables that support the Brooklyn Bridge. Twenty-seven years later, with McCann now a resident of Manhattan, that mutual support would be demonstrated on a September morning. McCann never mentions 9/11, but you can feel the jet engines riffle the pages of his remarkable novel. Presented by Seattle Arts & Lectures. BRIAN MILLER

Thu., May 24, 7:30 p.m., 2012

 
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