This summer, new students at Goucher College will read Colum McCann's sweeping and radical social novel Let the Great World Spin. The book is Goucher's 2013 summer reading assignment for first-year and transfer students.
Selected based on suggestions from faculty and staff, Let the Great World Spin will spark discussion among new students, staff, and professors during Goucher's fall orientation session. This summer, incoming students will receive a copy of the book and study guide questions to foster group conversation during a daylong discussion that will be held on Sunday, August 25. The day will culminate with an open forum and discussion with the author during which students may ask questions.
This ambitious novel is set in New York City in August 1974, a time of transition, extraordinary promise, and — in hindsight — heartbreaking innocence for the nation. The country is enthralled by a mysterious tightrope walker who is running, dancing, leaping between the Twin Towers. In the streets below, the lives of McCann's characters become extraordinary.
Corrigan, a radical young Irish monk, struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the middle of the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gather in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, only to discover just how much divides them even in grief. A young artist finds herself at the scene of a hit-and-run that sends her own life careening sideways. Tillie, a 38-year-old grandmother, turns tricks alongside her teenage daughter, determined not only to take care of her family, but to prove her own worth.
In this critically acclaimed novel, McCann elegantly weaves together the unforgettable voices of the city's people, unexpectedly bound by hope, beauty, and the "artistic crime of the century."
1. As students read the book they should ponder both the direct and implied links between 1974 and 9/11. What are the direct links (for example Vietnam/Iraq and the Arpanet/Internet)? What are the implied links (issues of faith, belonging, beauty)? What is the author trying to say about the links between the past and the present?
2. In interviews the author has talked about "acts of radical empathy." What does he mean by this? If you were asked to perform an act of radical empathy, what could you do? Can radical empathy change the world?