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Glimpses of the underpinnings of everyday life of one Mr Bridge, a wealthy attorney in Kansas City circa 1930 Told in vignette form, his prides and his prejudices are shown His life is neatly halved, work and family He sees no reason why the two should mingle His wife is sheltered, naive, and repressed Mr Bridge is a man who values precision, who is easily annoyed, and than a little self righteous Keeping up appearances is all important This book is the counterpart to the novel entitled Mrs Bridge, penned 10 years prior to this one Both finely written, the author shines in his ability to keep the reader s interest without resorting to anything other than simple prose that is close to perfection. Evan S Connell s two books Mrs Bridge and Mr Bridge should be read together.Please read first my review of Mrs Bridge here I will not repeat what I have said before I am glad to have read her book before his Her book gives a complete view of the events Why it is this way is a consequence of how Mrs Bridge ends To explain would be a spoiler Nevertheless, you must read both to fully understand the family.The two books are written in the same manner both have the same marvelous humor, prose style and short chapters.Both give readers a look into the lives of the Bridge family members the two parents and their three children You learn about the family maid, Harriet, and Mr Bridge s secretary in the second book than you do in the first Both books draw the kids extremely well To learn about them is reason enough to read the two books The first book pulls you in and makes you want to know everything that is possible to know about the family The second book satisfies that need While the kids are covered well in both books, you understand the parents better having completed the second I strongly advise against reading only the first book despite that I rated the first book higher I love both of these books I love the manner in which they have been written how the chapters have been constructed and the prose style I love their humor and that they are so true to life What the kids say is what kids do say to their parents The same is true for the adults The dialogs are perfect, absolutely perfect This is a book focusing on character portrayal You already know from the first book what will happen This book makes even clear Walter s, India s, Ruth s, Caroline s and Douglas personality I came to care for all of them, except I came to realize that view spoiler Walter was not the man I originally thought he was I came to feel disappointment with his inflexibility his controlling manner and his prejudices He is blind to his prejudices There are people like this, so although this disappointed me because I had come to care for him, the book is not weakened by his having such disturbing faults hide spoiler 4,5Stick em upComing toward him was a red eyed, unshaven man with one hand thrust into the slit pocket of a shabby trench coat Mr Bridge said impatientlyWhat is it you want Give me your money,the man said in hoarse voice, and he made a threatening gestureDon t be ridiculous,said Mr Bridge, and walked away While driving home he contemplated the incident The man s presumption was extraordinary If he had no money he should get a job like everybody else Mr Bridge, Walter, doesn t think like everybody else, but he believes everybody else should think the way he does If they did, the world would be a better place.I enjoyed the gentle, poignant humour of Mrs Bridge, written in 1959, ten years earlier than this companion piece Read her book first My review of that is here was written in 1969, in the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, as the musical Hair identified the era It s possible the author shows us a different side of the Bridges from his modern vantage point The story actually takes place between the two World Wars, and we see Mr Bridge laying down the law as to proper behaviour, what is expected of men and women and children and business and society and and and.There is no question that he is a hard, or at least long, worker, spending hours at the office with his faithful assistant, Julia, and in his study at home, where the family is nervous about disturbing him Surprisingly, he does sometimes sit in there wishing they would, but he has no way of letting them know.At one point, he seriously considers explaining something about an interesting business case to the rest of the family but talks himself out of it None of this would make sense at the dinner table They might listen, but it would be a strain No No, he thought, as he peered into his glass, there is almost nothing I can say to them My life is cut in half The halves remain side by side in perfect equilibrium like halves of a melon I suppose the same is true of most men Or are they somehow unlike me Are they able to share themselves He has no idea what other men think and do, but he s pretty sure of what s important to him Mostly it s business, but not always He has times when he sits out with the family, reading his paper or listening to his favourite music Often idle family chatter is going on around him Mr Bridge discovered that he could not read any , though he continued holding the paper He listened to his daughters and his wife and he observed his son, but he no longer understood what was being said as he listened to their voices and to the seasonal music of the insects the problems which had troubled him during the day did not seem important, and he reflected that he had practically everything he ever wanted See He s a nice guy And sometimes he is He is by turns solicitous of his wife and her happiness, but he s sometimes exasperated by her innocence and naivety She really has never been there and done that Then again, he uses it to his advantage It s easy for him to boss her around He assumes she trusts he s right She doesn t always, incidentally read Mrs Bridge first It s the better book anyway He puts his foot down and doesn t like anyone who isn t from a white, middle class, church going family He s happy to do business with other people, but he doesn t want to associate with them except as servants or staff When teen son Douglas is seen associating regularly with a teen waitress from their country club, Mr Bridge calls him in for a discussion Where did she live In a big apartment building near Menorah Hospital Her mother worked at Menorah, he thought Menorah Was this girl a Jewess Douglas didn t know He had never thought about it He guessed she might be Irish What was her name Peggy O Hara There is a time when Walter accidentally voices aloud a thought he has been secretly harbouring, that Hitler has some good ideas about Jews Even his mild mannered wife is progressive in her thinking than he is, as are the kids, of course.Despite his comment about being happy reading his paper, he seems happiest when he visits the vault in his bank to look at his securities He takes great pride and pleasure in amassing investments to ensure a comfortable future He s a bit of a Midas in that regard.Having said that, and being no admirer of Walter Bridge, I can understand him Here s a man who s lived through the Great War and the Depression and loathes the Roosevelt administration whose New Deal gives away his hard earned money to the undeserving get a job I have always liked the saying It s a reason, but it s no excuse I may understand why people think the way they do or even behave the way they do, but it s not an excuse for their behaviour Mr Bridge could give you lots of reasons, but I don t think any of them excuse him This is a terrific portrait of the man Mrs Bridge loved and lived with for so many years I did, often, want to bop him on the head, because I recognised him so well Connell gives him quite a dark side, too, which is extremely well hidden from everyone It comes as a surprise when it suddenly erupts here and there Their trip overseas was a real eye opener for both of the Bridges It s a good read, but read about the Missus first There s a lot racial tension and white paranoia in Mr Bridge than in Mrs. Perhaps due to the 60s between Mrs. 1959 and Mr. 1969 there intervened a decade of national Civil Rights struggle and Black Power posturing Not that Connell is suddenly cartoonish or emphatic in the sequel He isn t Updike, whose first two Rabbit novels are separated by a similar span 1961 and 1971 in Rabbit Redux a black Vietnam vet, Skeeter, moves in, gets Rabbit high and remedially schools him on the black experience of these Benighted States of America No, in this novel Connell remains a droll deity arranging hundreds of one and two page chapterlets of poker faced prose, making a mosaic of those moments in which nothing really happens but much is glimpsed In this quiet way Connell exposes the Negrophobia and Jew loathing implicit in the first novel Walter Bridge, a prosperous Kansas City attorney, feels a panicky unease after being told that his black maid s nephew plans to apply to Harvard When his upset wife shows him an article on a lynching, he asks her What was this fellow doing that he shouldn t have been doing and insists that the Southerners he knows are the most courteous and hospitable of people He reviles Roosevelt as a socialist, thinks Communism a plot by upstart Jews to expropriate arduously accumulated WASP fortunes, and secretly approves of what he sees as Hitler s attempt to limit Jewish influence at the outbreak of WWII, he concludes Hitler is insane and this was unfortunate because some of his ideas were sensible Oh, he lusts after his eldest daughter, Ruth, a languorous, moody, vaguely arty wannabee actress who is watched sunbathing or stretched out like leopard in front of the phonograph while Mozart and Wagner spill over her Ruth escapes to New York, presumably to become one of the well brought up refugees from WASPdom that the passing for white Anatole Broyard balled by the hundreds during his Greenwich Village years.A real piece of work, right A sick fuck, even Yet Mr Bridge is a rich and fascinating creation Connell must like the challenge of repellant characters the novel he published between the Bridges is called The Diary of a Rapist Mr Bridge is partly based on Connell s father and made me think tenderly of my own I laugh writing that When his other daughter Carolyn s sorority accepts a black pledge, Mr Bridge fumes about this troublemaker my dad was just such a troublemaker, he and his older brother the first blacks to live on campus at a Bible college in rural Arkansas in the mid 1960s At one point they had to stare down and shame the college president, who disagreed with the trustees decision and who, until confronted by my dad and uncle, defiantly and publicly referred to them as our n s I hate to use the censor s dash, but the review would get flagged otherwise That said, Mr Bridge is, in some ways, the kind of man my dad was raised to be reticent, guarded, and rigorously compartmentalized Bridge excludes emotions and memories from his mature persona The aspects of his personality not germane to the roles of breadwinner and patriarch remain opaque to his family, and largely so to himself The only conscious poetry in the man is the thought of how well his family will be taken care of should he suddenly die a repeated, resonant image is his reverie of the safe deposit box, induced as he handles savings bonds and stock certificates in the tomb like hush of a bank vault It is very droll of Connell never to pinpoint Mr Bridge s age we only know that he is no longer a boy, as he is ready to remind anyone who would force him to emote or reminisce In a recent memoir Edmund White remembers his father s peers in 1940s Cincinnati by their large and well cared for hats, by their plain lace up shoes and double breasted suits and heavy overcoats, uniforms that elevated and concealed them in an ageless anonymity from twenty to fifty they were men, nothing or less The most lyrical passages of this very muted book come when Mr Bridge is overtaken by images from youth, or when the prosaic patriarch lets slip some stunning story Twelve year old Douglas Bridge is entranced by movie ace Errol Flynn in Dawn Patrol and asks his father to fund flying lessons Mr Bridge refuses, and to illustrate the danger of flying dryly cites one of his experiences in WWI Douglas is disappointed by the refusal, then dumbstruck by the revelation just as I was dumbstruck when I learned that my dad faced down some ol cracker on a Southern campus You learn a parent in fragments Mr Bridge made me want to re read Connell s Little Big Horn excavation, Son of the Morning Star 1984 James Baldwin said that American history is longer, larger, various, beautiful and terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it but he said that twenty years before Connell got a hold of Custer Son of the Morning Star shares the accretive, anecdotal style of the Bridge novels the digressions extend and interlace to form something incredibly vast no less than the American character as revealed by the struggle for the Great Plains, judged one critic And I wonder if in Custer Connell found a thematic ancestor of Mr Bridge Of course, Custer fought to make the Great Plains habitable for future Mr Bridges But deeply, each man is at once a stereotype and a paradox, representative and deeply bizarre Custer is a caricature of belligerent white male arrogance and a perfect sentimentalist, weepy, high strung, and theatrical If Mr Bridge is the quintessence of stolid Great Plains conservatism, of the walnut paneled interwar Midwest, all gray flannel and municipal bonds, he is also a latent daredevil, never serene or clear headed than when chance crises a stormy transatlantic crossing, a tornado touching down at his country club disrupt or invigorate his self imposed bourgeois routine Custer s Civil War exploits as a relentless Union commander it was his cavalry division that grabbed Lee like a police dog and held him until the rest of Grant s army could catch up who also happened to revile blacks and admire prewar Southern society exposes the contradictions of the Northern war effort and foreshadows the racist reconciliation of North and South, of which Mr Bridge s lynching comments are an expression Mr Bridge is fond of quoting Lincoln but his folksy maxims of self improvement, not his soaring civic poetry Lincoln the canny Illinois attorney is powerfully vivid to Mr Bridge Lincoln the Great Emancipator The renovator of American democracy Not so much And Custer is no less paradoxical as an Indian fighter committed to destroying the way of life of the Plains tribes while romantically entranced by that way of life Mrs Custer had been the darling of Washington society during the Civil War, and he had powerful political backers in the east yet he chose to remain a rather poorly paid regular army officer on the rustic fringes of the civilization he was helping to spread Galloping hundreds of miles across plains hunting buffalo from horseback teaching himself taxidermy on campaign sleeping in the souvenir teepee he took from a Cheyenne village just before he burned it there s a lot of Custer in his admirer Teddy Roosevelt s anxious fin de si cle program for the reinvigoration of American males, in which the white sportsman, in tailored buckskin, eludes the femininizing creep of modern civilization by temporarily re incarnating the Indian warrior s stoicism and self reliance The ever subtle and ambiguous Connell is as far from Roosevelt s squeaky voiced warnings of over civilization and rhapsodies of the Strenuous Life as any writer can be a shirtless drum circle of other married guys is the last thing Walter Bridge wants, or needs but Douglas Bridge does deserve to be studied as one of the canonical contests of violent boyhood and fussy female gentility The page and a half Connell devotes to the Bridges contrasting reactions to Douglas s killing of a squirrel with his bb gun is an X ray of the gender themes and power tensions of this American family And so ends my review, rambling and half baked where Connell s novel is stealthy and controlled Read himHe s a ninja Props to Counterpoint for keeping the Bridge novels in print, but in cover design they lose to North Point Old Puritan headstones are exactly what India and Walter demand. I prefer to give Mr Bridge 4.5 stars, since I didn t think that it quite measured up to Mrs Bridge, although it s still worth reading after Mrs Bridge The vignette style of both books is something that I seldom see and love Just like Mrs Bridge, this book is not plot driven Nothing major happens Both books are subtle and heartwarming Both will remain with me Some may not like Mr Bridge I prefer to not judge him too harshly He was a man of his time in the Midwest I prefer to look at his positive side He loved his family and was traditional. i ve been thinking about writing a review for mr bridge and one for mrs bridge for three years now in the midst of reading and even after i am always overflowing with reaction to the books but it s been hell trying to restrain my thoughts each time i ve found i think so much about them that i spin out to my own context, considering the influences of culture and community and nature and nurture and then i think many outrageous things about the world and find it hard to spin it back down to midwestern america, let alone actually writing a review, let alone two and it s hard for me now to want to read one of these novels without reading the other because while they do stand as individual and distinct works mrs bridge s naive repression resonates very differently from mr bridge s view of the proprieties of a white middle class american dream back to back they are magical, reflecting and echoing, each enriching the other, the two books making a magnificent literary marriage from one complicated one published ten years apart this one came out in 1969, ten years after mrs bridge they are such perfectly complementary portraits, perspectives of a mister and a missus who ostensibly shared a life but i finally think i know what i want to say now, so do forgive me if you happen to stumble upon one and then the other of these reviews and see some repetition in my theme heck, i may even reuse these opening paragraphs for both mr bridge would want you to know that he is a devoted father and husband he works very hard so his family will have all the advantages he did not, and so they will be very provided for when he is gone he is very fastidious and very conservative he has his own code of honour but what he tells you without telling you by telling you what he thinks, in this masterful book by evan s connell, is that he s pompous, bigoted and opinionated and he thinks that makes him the right kind of american it s the most amazing thing about mr bridge, how intimately you get to know him all his aspects and connell does it just that way, sketching him in, one vignette at a time, revealing the man by his actions and his words, in marvellously controlled, charming, engaging, and sometimes acerbic prose each chapter reveals or compounds another aspect of this finely wrought character and his world his family, his work, his employees, his club, his business associates he doesn t have any friends mr bridge can t breach his own distance and really nothing gets out, and nothing comes in, nor does he really want it to he feels he has done right by his family and has lived a productive and useful life mr bridge is a testament to an early twentieth century midwestern american man, to an era, a time that came before, in a community i could never have fit into, a place i ve never really been able to comprehend connell s portrait of mr bridge is a fully realized frankenstein who suffused me when i read his book i felt very strongly in both my readings that these very WASP y books finally helped me understand a worldview so outside my own understanding i ve never been able to learn the ability to remain composed, impassive, unemotional i ve often thought it might be nice to be stoic in person and also philosophy, to quell the storms of passion and empathy, to exchange them for stolid control, and the closest i think i might get is to step into mr bridge s world and live a part of his life with him again and even though his world is harsh and unfair, it is also funny and wise and mr bridge himself is seductive is his arrogance i copy the last two paragraphs of the novel in spoiler tags below there s no grand reveal in these words but they complete his picture, and i often think of them, and at last, with compassion view spoiler Mr Bridge got to his feet reluctantly He opened the book and held it for his wife, who sang in a pure, slender tone The congregation sang Joy to the World, and he sang a few phrases because he enjoyed the Christmas carols.Yet while he was singing he reflected on the word joy the archaic sound of this odd word, and its meaning He reflected that he had occasionally heard people use this word Evidently they had experienced joy, or believed they had experienced it He asked himself if he ever had known it If so, he could not remember But he thought he must have known it because he understood the connotation, would be impossible without having experienced it However, if he had once known joy it must have been a long time ago Satisfaction, yes, and pleasure of several sorts, and pride, and possibly a feeling which might be called rejoicing after some serious worry or problem had been resolved There were many such feelings, but none of them should be called joy He remembered enthusiasm, hope, and a kind of jubilation or exultation Cheerfulness, yes, and joviality, and the brief gratification of sex Gladness too, fullness of heart, appreciation, and many other emotions But not joy No, that belonged to simpler minds hide spoiler I read Mrs Bridge and Mr Bridge in close succession, and I loved both of them I recommend reading them in the order in which they were written Mrs Bridge in 1959 and Mr Bridge in 1969 The stories in Mr Bridge build on the ones told from his wife s perspective, and a complete picture of the family emerges Mr Bridge isn t as likable a character as his wife, but I don t think the greatness of the novel should be discounted simply because its narrator is taciturn and narrow minded.It was fun reading about what Kansas City was like in the 1930s and 40s But the most welcome aspect was getting a glimpse into the mind of each of the Bridges, characters that reminded me of some of my relatives Good literature is known for highlighting our shared humanity, and in that respect, these novels may be called great literature. *Ebook ⇨ Mr. Bridge ⇦ Walter Bridge Is An Ambitious Lawyer Who Redoubles His Efforts And Time At The Office Whenever He Senses That His Family Needs Something, Even When What They Need Is Of Him And Less Of His Money Affluence, Material Assets, And Comforts Create A Cocoon Of Community Respectability That Cloaks The Void Within Not The Skeleton In The Closet But A Black Hole Swallowing The Whole Household Connell brilliantly describes the daily life of the upper middle class Bridges I considered abandoning Mr Bridge several times Walter Bridge lives a regimented and unexamined life He is a bigot He is boring except for an occasional flash of wit and a few acts of unexpected kindness I didn t like him at all But I did finish, because Connell s pitch perfect prose made me turn the pages. Oh my I loved this book with an ache that is reserved for the things you don t really want to put too much thought into, because the visceral feeling is best when it is beyond words In any case, I will say that this is one of the best novels I have read that simply focuses on the American family, in particular, the Midwestern family unit, which is a subtle offshoot of the grand scheme of the nuclear dream America put forward pre and post World Wars, and remains like dark matter in our current social systems I d read Mrs Bridge a few years ago, and also greatly enjoyed it, but Mr Bridge hits a nerve in a way that I don t recall Mrs Bridge doing Mr Bridge is unlikable, but tragic and hilarious as a character, and so familiar to me I grew up in Illinois, my parents are from Minnesota, and I now live in Indiana after a stint in the northwest Mr Bridge is like, part of my blood, man Listen I laughed and I cried reading this book the classic sign of brilliant storytelling.