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Subway Reading Club: Let the Great World Spin

Flora Lange

September 26th, 2017


Hi All! This is the beginning of what I hope to be a series of articles called “The Subway Reading Club”. In each entry I will suggest and review a book that ties into the subway experience but that you can really read anywhere.


The first book is Let the Great World Spin. This book is an ode to the complex, intertwined, heartbreaking, and extraordinary lives that people in New York City lead. Each chapter in the book is told from the perspective of a different person in New York City in the 70’s.


The book begins with a description of Philippe Petit walking a tightrope between the twin towers and how people on the street below react. Philippe’s tightrope walk is essentially what threads together the people’s stories in the novel; the stories told are all intertwined and connected.


The first part of the book focuses on an Irish immigrant named Corrigan. Corrigan is a man who sacrifices his life for others and is very religous, but still has a complicated relationship with God. Corrigan allows prostitutes in the Bronx to use the bathroom and rest for a moment in his apartment in the projects.


The book then moves on to follow the story of one of these prostitutes named Jazzlyn. From Jazzlyn we then have chapters from the perspectives of people that mean something to her. A seemingly separate plot is that of Claire. A woman who joins a club of women who meet to talk about their sons who they lost in the Vietnam War. From Claire there are then chapters from her husband’s view and from other people that she interacts with.


As the book progresses, the chapters begin to make sense in how they all relate to each other. You begin to notice how all these seemingly unrelated people affect each other's lives in ways they don’t even realize. The book shows the heartbreaking stories of people’s extreme poverty and loss. However, Let the Great World Spin also shows the city in such a beautiful, interconnected mess that allows prostitutes from the Bronx to love an Irish immigrant, a white woman from the Upper East Side to befriend a black woman in the Bronx, and a car accident and death to connect two people who then fall in love.


Let the Great World Spin makes you realize how little you know about the people you see every day. It makes you think that you never know where they come from, who they love, what they do, the pain they have felt, the loss they have experienced etc. The novel makes you appreciate the complete individuality of each person but how we still rely on each other and constantly experience the effect of other people’s lives on our own.

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