Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

The Bridge of San Luis Rey
by Thornton Wilder
Pulitzer Prize
1 star - could not finish

Calgon - Take me away!

What is up with the Pulitzer Prize committee of the late 1920's? Oh blech.

A nice, thin volume, of barely 100 pages. Surely I can get through that. 

Here's the premise. A bridge in Peru collapses, sending five people to their death and a local cleric, Brother Juniper, seeks to find out what led those specific five people to be on the bridge that day. That sounds pretty good. Almost like a reverse Final Destination.

The book opens with the bridge collapse and then there is a section for each individual victim (well, I suppose there is since I didn't make it through victim number one).

On page 20 and I am really struggling with the dense prose, so I flip back to the dust cover for support. That read well. "Be strong." I counseled myself. But before I even reached page 30 my wee little brain was crying out for relief. "Don't care! Don't care! Don't care!"

I noted there is a recent movie edition. Uh oh. The reviews were far more entertaining than the book. 

From the NY Times:
...has appeared virtually out of nowhere, sneaking into the market with a stealth that reeks of flop sweat. [But] how bad could a movie be that features talent as serious as Robert De Niro, Kathy Bates...
That bad, alas.

Sounds like a pass.

Listen up oh Pulitzer Prize committee of old. Just because these books are supposed to be about the human condition, that doesn't require them to be dreadful, overly verbose tragedies. I, for one, engage in the human condition every day and I assure you that there are bright moments when it is great to be alive. 

Now then. Reading through my reviews of the earlier winners, I am nostalgic for those volumes which, although marked with the inevitable tragedy, were still quite readable and, dare I say, frequently enjoyable. One must assume that the award committee was water logged in the fashion of the day when it came to what was considered great literature. Hopefully those pompous committee members who subjected me to not one, not two, but THREE one star disasters in a row have something better coming soon.


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  2. Think they made a movie out of that book back in the late '50's or early 60's, too. Good grief. Maybe things will pick up when you hit the early '30's, although one could reasonably anticipate a lot of Depression era human suffering and overcoming. Sounds like Pulitzers go to oatmeal books -- supposedly good for you, but not necessarily enjoyable. Although I happen to love oatmeal.

  3. I happen to love oatmeal, too. But I draw the line at over-cooked spinach. And this book sounds like once-frozen, over-cooked spinach. Bleah. How often do/did they change the Pulitzer committee? Maybe when a new committee arrives (historically, that is), there will be a better crop of books.

    -Dr. Liz, who has to go track down patients now