May 6, 2015 – Notes

 In attendance: Liz Clarke, Vivian Krone, Janice Loschiavo, Lois Pagnozzi, Meta Pitrelli, Cathy Quinn, Sharon Rome, Donna Sabetta, Barbara Santillo, Tina Segali, Marilyn Sinisi, Jeri Stangl, Joan Swensen.

Book & Author: Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann.

Backing up to The Boys in the Boat, Lois showed the group an amazing photograph, dated September 7, 1936, of a CCC camp in Spokane, Washington. (The Civilian Conservations Corps was a public relief program for unemployed, unmarried men as part of the New Deal.) Seen clearly in the scrolled black and white photo is Lois’ father, a handsome young man with a thick mane of hair. He was part of the group working on the Grand Coulee Dam; he always said Washington reminded him of Germany.

Since it was the first meeting in quite a while in which all were in attendance, it was difficult to shift the conversation from catching up to focusing on the book. Once begun, the discussion was spirited and barely contained, producing a cacophony of sound.

Questions and Comments regarding Let the Great World Spin:

  • Beginning with the wirewalker, what guts he had! Did he need to do it? Did he have a strength beyond the physical? Did he have a fear of death? He wasn’t an entertainer, he wasn’t looking for the notoriety — what drove him to do it? On page 64, we find, “Within seconds, he was pureness moving, and he could do anything he liked…. The core reason for it all was beauty.” There was something special about him, which even the judge noticed. In his act, his had become one with the city.
  • Most in the group mentioned not really enjoying the book until the stories and people began to intertwine. It was noted that some of the individual episodes could have been eliminated without affecting the book.
  • Regarding the plausibility of so many lives weaving, the group talked about the connections that many had to each other and mentioned incidences of seemingly random people and events interconnecting.
  • What actually caused the accident that killed Corrie? He seemed to stop or slow for an unknown reason. Was it due to his having broken his vow of chastity the night before?
  • What made Corrie choose to live his life that way? It was suggested that he was like Francis of Assisi in that no one really understood him. This endeared him to the underbelly of society. On page 67 his brother describes him as “at the origin of things…. He was a crack of light under the door, and yet the door was shut to him.” Yet, he lived life exactly the way he wanted to.
  • Would Corrie have stayed with Adelita had he lived? Ah, there were many opinions but we’ll never know.
  • All the characters in the novel are in some way walking a tightrope.
  • Do the accidents and connections bring about redemption? What, exactly, is redemption?
  • The connection with 9/11 was discussed. On that day, as well as the day of the wirewalker, people craned their necks to view the towers. Both days had heart-stopping moments.
  • The world stumbles on – is it enough? It has to be since there is no alternative.

After some back-and-forth, the book earned a 3.0 rating. The group noted that the ratings have not seemed consistent and that in retrospect, seem rather arbitrary. Cathy mentioned one criterion for a “4” rating that others appeared to agree with: if people will want to read the book in 100 years, then it deserves a “4.” Jeri suggested we wait until after we have celebrated our 100th book to start afresh with a critical eye in awarding ratings.

Next Meeting: Wednesday, June 3, 5:00 p.m., at Joan’s house. The book chosen by Sharon is We Are Not Ourselves, by Matthew Thomas. Food assignments are: Kings salad, Jeri; antipasto salad, Barbara; carrot salad, Donna; desserts, Meta and Sharon.

 For the July 1 meeting, Donna selected The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. Janice chose Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence, for the August 5 meeting.

Submitted by Tina Segali

May 8, 2015