Posted on Aug 31, 2015 in Fiction

by Colum McCann
Random House, 2009


I heard Colum McCann interviewed about this marvelous “symphony of a novel” as Frank McCourt called it, before his death. His novel had won the National Book award (an award that always makes me look again).

The novel is set in August of 1974 and the interconnected stories in each chapter are each related to an actual event: Phillipe Petit, walking a tight-rope strung between the still existent Twin Towers.

It is a marvelously complex novel – full of surprise with the clever way the various characters touch each other’s lives, unwittingly, unknowingly.

Recently – I’ve learned from friend and poet Jack Ridl the power of not looking directly into a subject, but glancing in another direction. In so doing – we can take in more fully, more creatively, the subject that is being addressed.

This is not a story about September 11 nor about the lives of the New Yorker’s present that day. And yet – that event – is never far from our minds. And so the stories told in and around the eventful day when Petit walked that thin wire between those magnificent structures inevitably speak to that day and to lives touched by events of magnitude.

The language exquisite and poetically reflective as in:

“The harpsichord of the Brooklyn Bridge

“The sirens were turned on. All was red and blue and wail.”

“Every now and then the city shook its soul out. It assailed you with an image, or a day, or a crime, or a terror or a beauty so difficult to wrap your mind around that you had to shake your head in disbelief.”