Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Book Group Report - 8

Tonight the book group met to talk about Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann.  This is a really great book, which won the 2009 National Book Award for fiction.  Great World is about fictional events that may or may not have occurred on a certain day in 1974 when Philippe Petit walked on a tightrope between the twin towers of the World Trade Center.  There were 8 of us there tonight, and everyone had read the book.

We all agreed that Great World was a thoughtful tribute to the memory of the World Trade Center, and those who died there.  It is really rather remarkable that Philippe Petit is not among those who died at that site, given that he had the audacity to run a tightrope between the two towers, and repeatedly dance across it.  Was Petit the first terrorist at the World Trade Center?  He lied and cheated his way into the buildings for his own end, but his end was not sinister.  Petit was a law breaker, but he didn't mean to terrorize.  He did mean to cause fear.  How could one not feel fear for a person who you happen to notice walking on a tightrope 110 stories above one's head?  I felt queasy in the pit of my stomach just reading about him taking the first step off of the building and on to the wire.  Does that make him a terrorist?  All told, he is more of a mad thespian than a terrorist, as he tried to draw attention to himself for the entertainment of others, and for purely egotistical reasons.   

The book group thought that it was odd that we didn't hear anything about Petit in the days following the attacks on the World Trade Center.  We all sat around our TVs for days in 2001, soaking up anything that they would tell us about the buildings.  Petit was never mentioned that any of us can recall.

Another thing that we talked about was how Great World left us wanting more.  Some of the fictional stories were resolved, while others were not.  The story of Petit was told in bits and pieces, which worked in this case.  If we wanted to know more about Petit, we could Google him and find out.  Some of us had seen the award winning documentary, Man on Wire, which tells Petit's story in full detail. 

Of the fictional characters, Gloria was a favorite, and we wanted to know more about Corrigan. We were glad that some cycles were broken.  In the end, we felt that we understood the characters who we couldn't love.

Next up:  Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

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