Thirteen Ways of Looking

Thirteen Ways of Looking

3.96 (4,952 ratings by Goodreads)
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A story in this collection has been longlisted for the Sunday Times EFG short story award

As it was, it was like being set down in the best of poems, carried into a cold landscape, blindfolded, turned around, unblindfolded, forced, then, to invent new ways of seeing.

It is a cold day in January when J. Mendelssohn wakes in his Upper East Side apartment. Old and frail, he is entirely reliant on the help of his paid carer, and as he waits for the heating to come on, the clacking of the pipes stirs memories of the past; of his childhood in Lithuania and Dublin, of his distinguished career as a judge, and of his late wife, Eileen. Later he leaves the house to meet his son Elliot for lunch, and when Eliot departs mid-meal, Mendelssohn continues eating alone as the snow falls heavily outside.

Moments after he leaves the restaurant he is brutally attacked. The detectives working on the case search through the footage of Mendelssohn's movements, captured by cameras in his home and on the street. Their work is like that of a poet: the search for a random word that, included at the right instance, will suddenly make sense of everything.

Told from a multitude of perspectives, in lyrical, hypnotic prose, Thirteen Ways of Looking is a ground-breaking novella of true resonance. Accompanied by three equally powerful stories set in Afghanistan, Galway and London, this is a tribute to humanity's search for meaning and grace, from a writer at the height of his form, capable of imagining immensities even in the smallest corners of our lives.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 256 pages
  • 135 x 216 x 20mm | 284g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1st ed.
  • 1408869845
  • 9781408869840
  • 99,962

Review Text

A superbly crafted and deeply moving collection of fiction.underscores [McCann's] reputation as a contemporary master Kirkus
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Review quote

A superbly crafted and deeply moving collection of fiction...underscores [McCann's] reputation as a contemporary master * Kirkus * Separate and together, these four works prove McCann a master with a poet's ear, a psychologist's understanding, and a humanitarian's conscience * Publishers Weekly * Quite simply one of the best, most sustained pieces of fiction I've read in some time ... A novel of true resonance and power * Independent on Transatlantic * Beautifully hypnotic ... Those who can't see the point of historical novels will find their answer here -- Emma Donoghue, author of Room Expertly constructed ... The prose is poetically vivid * Observer * Colum McCann is a very gifted, charming writer; in full, rhapsodic-onrush mode, he is hard to resist ... TransAtlantic is deft, well crafted, and broad in its imaginative range * Guardian * Crime and violence shadow the accompanying stories, told from viewpoints including those of a nun recalling the man who raped and tortured her in South America decades earlier, and an author trying to write about a female soldier in Afghanistan * Observer * Like all the best books, Colum McCann's latest ... is about time. Over the course of a novella and three short stories he probes our shifting relationship with it ...It's in the flawless opening novella, which gives the collection its title, that McCann really lets loose ... Thirteen Ways of Looking is a detective story turned inside out ... "Sometimes it seems to me," he says in a note at the end, "that we are writing our lives in advance, but at other times we can only ever look back." In this superlative collection, which surely ranks among his finest work, he manages to express both possibilities at once * Sunday Telegraph * Such is McCann's command of rhythm in this short spark that you could open Thirteen Ways at any page and fall under its spell ... Rich with his trademark lyrical, melancholic, ever so ex-pat Irish prose ... It is going to resonate in your mulling head for days * Big Issue * I had been enjoying the fairground thrill of being willingly rattled by the fictional menace and mortality in these pages that, combined with the energy and playfulness of McCann's writing, made for good reading about bad things. Then the blow of the author's end note, with the spectre of reality (and autobiography) jostling its way into the fiction I had just read. Now I was rattled in a different way -- Arifa Akbar * Independent * A rich, poetic monologue, where memories, words and worlds collide ... You wouldn't necessarily think that an account of a single day in the life of a frail old man could be so entrancing ... McCann, who comes from Dublin, is an intensely literary writer, and his prose thrums with echoes of Beckett, Yeats and Joyce ... What emerges from this rich, linguistic mix is a poignant and beautiful glimpse into the end of a life * Sunday Times * Each character is cleanly drawn, each description rings true ... strange and remarkable ... One of the strengths of McCann's writing is his ability to place himself, and so his reader, in another's body ... surprising and moving ... The story (Sh'khol) wonderfully captures the exacting, awful mystery of love and the danger of loss -- Erica Wagner * Guardian * It is this idea, that reality trumps invention, which drives this beautifully written ... discerning collection from Colum McCann, in which he breaks new ground in his brilliant literary career. Reading these stories is pleasurable and stimulating on a range of levels ... The language is, as always with McCann, delightful. He writes with a sure sense of rhythm, and he has an enviably agile mastery of syntax ... The author's frank note at the back, informing us of the link between real events and the fictional treatment, and his further elaboration of this connection on his website, give to the work an astonishing new dimension, distinguishing it from almost any other fiction * Irish Times * Atmospheric, unsettling ... Thirteen Ways is a clever, slick but movingly tender work, whose tone holds the attention from the start ... McCann's ability to slow the pace of action while allowing his prose to bubble and boil, heightens the febrile mood. And while Thirteen Ways of Looking is unarguably bleak, it is also rich * Herald * McCann is wonderfully good at conjuring up both the judge's present frailties and bemusements and the vibrancy of his past ... chronicled with the author's customary assurance and alertness to detail *
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About Colum McCann

Colum McCann, originally from Dublin, Ireland, is the author of six novels and three collections of stories. His most recent novel, TransAtlantic, was longlisted for the Man Booker 2013, and his previous novel, Let the Great World Spin, won the National Book Award, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and was a New York Times bestseller. His fiction has been published in thirty-five languages. He lives in New York.
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Rating details

4,952 ratings
3.96 out of 5 stars
5 29% (1,436)
4 46% (2,258)
3 20% (983)
2 4% (217)
1 1% (58)
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