Let the Great World Spin
by Colum McCann
Reviewed by Tournament of Books
The Morning News
Powell's Books and The Morning News present the 2010 Tournament of Books
The annual NCAA-style battle between literary titans rages on! There are some serious contenders this year, including The Lacuna, Wolf Hall and The Year of the Flood. Review-a-Day is bringing you a week at a glance -- every Sunday through March. Tune in each week for our featured battle, see how your favorites fared and catch up with fun commentary and other tidbits from The Morning News.
Another week has passed and the results from the Quarterfinals are in! Only the Semifinals stand between the remaining survivors and the Zombie Round. Who will be given another shot at the title? It's still anyone's game.
This Week's Featured Battle
Battle Date: March 22, 2010
Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
It's almost ideal that these two books should come up against one another, in that they're both American historical novels, or, more accurately, novels set during moments of great import in recent American history. And while they vary a bit in the period in which they span -- Let the Great World Spin mostly takes place over the course of the days surrounding Phillipe Petit's tightrope walk between the two towers of World Trade Center in August 1974, while The Help travels a longer road through early 1960s Mississippi -- these are both books about where America was and how we lived then, with the obvious corollary of How That Lead Us to Now.
This decision was actually more difficult than one would think it would be, if one judged solely on "literary" merit: McCann's book owes a very obvious debt to the DeLillo school of Great American Statements, while Stockett's novel is clearly of the Here's What We're Reading Next for Book Group ilk. It's much easier to reject that kind of snobbery when you read them both all the way through; Stockett's book is, for all its flaws, somehow more compelling and readable, while McCann's makes you work a little more, and takes you out -- intellectually -- of the narrative far more frequently, to its detriment.
(Read the entire review by ToB judge, Alex Balk)
Alex Balk is a co-founder of The Awl. Known connections to this year's contenders: "Conflict-free!"
Additional match-ups from this past week:
Your Tournament of Books Semifinalist matchups!
March 29, Jason Kottke
Let the Great World Spin
March 30, Andrew W. K.
The Book of Night Women