13 October 2015

Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann

Summary from Goodreads:
From the author of the award-winning novel Let the Great World Spin and TransAtlantic comes an eponymous novella and three stories that range fluidly across time, tenderly exploring the act of writing and the moment of creation when characters come alive on the page; the lifetime consequences that can come from a simple act; and the way our lives play across the world, marking language, image and each other.

Thirteen Ways of Looking is framed by two author’s notes, each dealing with the brutal attack the author suffered last year and strikes at the heart of contemporary issues at home and in Ireland, the author’s birth place.

Brilliant in its clarity and deftness, this collection reminds us, again, why Colum McCann is considered among the very best contemporary writers.

I only recently hopped on the Colum McCann bandwagon - it's that whole problem of having hundreds and hundreds of books on a TBR list.  It sometimes takes a bit to get to good writers.  I asked a friend which McCann I should start with - answer: Dancer, out from Picador in a gorgeous, gorgeous anniversary edition - which I read while on a trip last month.  Suffice to say, it was amazing  So when I saw McCann had a new story collection coming out, I scurried over to Edelweiss to see about finding a DRC.

Thirteen Ways of Looking is a small story collection, both in number of pages and number of stories.  Over half of the book is the title novella concerning an elderly former judge and the thirteen different ways he is seen by other characters or cameras and how he perceives or remembers his life.  I loved the way McCann interlaced dialogue and the aging man's thoughts into stream-of-consciousness sections that so accurately mirror how we each interact with the world.  "What Time Is It Now, Where You Are?" follows a writer as he creates a character, writing the story as he creates, alters, or embellishes each detail.  In "Sh'khol" an Irish single mother wakes to find her adopted, hearing-impaired son missing after receiving a coveted wetsuit for Christmas; her terror and guilt and confusion are almost palpable.  The final story, "Treaty," follows Beverly, a Maryknoll nun who was kidnapped and repeatedly raped and abused in the jungles of a South American country.  Thirty-seven years later, the rapist suddenly appears on a London news story as the broker of an important peace treaty unleashing a tide of memory and emotion in Beverly.  I did not breathe during the last four pages of this story.

Thirteen Ways of Looking is out today, October 13, wherever books are sold.

Dear FTC: I read a DRC of this book via Edelweiss.

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