I have never been a big Colum McCann fan, but this one cements it for me. I read Let the Great World Spin with an open mind, but by the end of it I had been battered so hard with cliches, tropes and an author constantly trying to peel the onions under my eyes to make me cry, that I threw it against a wall (not really, but you know?).
Apeirogon (April 2020): An Israeli man and a Palestinian man search for peace in an ancient Middle Eastern conflict when both of their daughters are killed.
Publisher’s Weekly seems to be jumping on the train with hardly a critical word for Apeirogon in its review: “McCann evokes the experience of its protagonists and their region through 1,001 brief numbered segments that incorporate sequences in the men’s own voices and interconnect topics including bullet manufacturing, Jorge Luis Borges, and birds. Balancing its dazzling intellectual breadth with moments of searing intimacy.”
But Kirkus Reviews has a very different take: “Rarely does McCann incorporate the voices of women. Smadar and Abir are necessarily rendered silent by their deaths, but McCann doesn’t make much space, either, for Rami’s and Bassam’s wives to inhabit. Nor does he assemble women writers, artists, and intellectuals with anything approaching the frequency with which he defers to figures like Darwish and Borges.”
In an age when we are confronting stereotypical depictions of silent, voiceless women in fiction, McCann can’t seem to get out from under the rock. Worse, the smug, supposedly high-minded literary world (who looks down their noses at genre fiction) can’t get enough of him. Maybe this tone deaf novel to the #MeToo movement will turn them against him. Doubtful though, the National Book Award winner is entrenched in the lit world. But he has proven himself again to me as Captain Cliche and Patriarch of Tropes.