Bridges in Literature

I’m reading Richard Russo’s Bridge of Sighs. Actually, I’m working my way through all 27 hours and 4 minutes of the audiobook version (21 cds) while driving around town. If you see me cruising down the road while I’m immersed in this wonderful novel, please honk or wave, but not so much that you distract me and cause an accident. One can only concentrate on so much input at once while DWEEB (Driving While Enjoying an Excellent Book).

My favorite part of the book so far has to do with how we see life as we get older, as compared with how we view it from the vantage point of youth. I don’t want to try and paraphrase Russo’s well-crafted prose here, or deprive you of the pleasure of dwelling on the passage of time while screeching to a halt at a stop sign. Just go pick up a copy and read it, preferably the 480-page hard copy version that you can spend some time with while reclining comfortably in your armchair at home. The world will be a much safer place without two DWEEBs driving around in a book-induced reverie.

Reading Bridge of Sighs has gotten me thinking about bridges in general, and wondering how often they’re mentioned in literature, music, and other genres.  Off the top of my head, I immediately thought of Bridge on the River Kwai and Bridge Over Troubled Water. Given that a bridge would be a powerful symbol, representing transition and change, I guessed that the bridge image must be commonplace in popular culture. As is often the case, I guessed wrong.

After thinking very hard (a.k.a. “Googling”), I managed to find only seven books worth mentioning with the word “bridge” in the title:

  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan
  • A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller
  • An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce
  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
  • Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell
  • Mr. Bridge by Evan S. Connell

(I just couldn’t bring myself to include The Bridges of Madison County.)

I then moved on to songs, and although there were some Top Ten song lists with “bridge” in the title, I’m only going to mention three here, because, to be honest, the other seven didn’t interest me:

  • Bridge over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel)
  • Under the Bridge (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
  • London Bridge (Traditional)

Finally, I resorted to adding characters named “Bridge” to my list, and I’m glad I did, because all of them are important in their own right.

  • Walter and India Bridge in the movie, Mr. & Mrs. Bridge, based on the books about Mrs. and Mr. Bridge, listed above.

This is important because I read the books AND saw the movie, and the movie has both Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in it, something that just makes me happy for some reason.

  • George Bailey’s bridge in the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. 

Okay, the bridge is not actually a character, but if it were a character, its name would most certainly be Bridget, and it would have won an Oscar for best movie prop in a supporting role.

  • Ruby Bridges, the first black child to integrate an all-white school in the American south (Nov. 14, 1960).

Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges tells Ms. Bridges’ story in her own words. I think her name is particularly symbolic.

Returning to the subject of Bridge of Sighs, I’m now on cd number 12 of 21, so I’m more than halfway across the bridge, so to speak. This is one of those books that I’ll be sorry to finish. I’ve already become quite attached to Lucy Lynch, its main character. Spoiler alert: Lucy is not at all the way you’re probably picturing him.

So if you see someone in the driver’s seat of a white Subaru Impreza, deep in thought while barreling toward you on the highway, maybe you’d better just stay out of their way, because it could very well be me, on the last page of the last chapter of Bridge of Sighs, possibly crying my eyes out, or smiling, or whatever it is Richard Russo has in store for me, and I wouldn’t want to have to plead DWEEB in traffic court.

 

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