Mrs. Bridge was one of the first works of Literature-with-a-capital-L I ever read, and it quietly blew my mind. I’ve read perhaps a thousand books since then—and it still does. The two books follow the marriage, in vignette form, of a deeply conventional upper-middle-class couple in Kansas City in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Sounds dreadful? No; they’re impossible to put down. Connell is the subtlest and most genius satirist I’ve ever read. You could, if you blinked a few times too many, take the books as a strictly straight-faced commentary on social alienation and emotional repression. And that is there, upfront, don’t mistake me—and it gives the characters genuine pathos. Where the satire comes out is when the secondary characters don’t act in the ways the Bridges would like them to: the housekeeper, neighbors and friends, their own children. The Bridges both struggle in their own ways, but still, irrevocably, the wider world seeps in. Connell doesn’t judge them…except in choosing what to linger on. Not a book for everyone, but if you like to watch a genius quietly at work, you mustn’t miss it.
77 – Beautiful Luggage
Before leaving on the trip she had checked over the luggage in the attic and concluded they did not have enough, so she had gone downtown and bought three elegant, darkly burnished leather suitcases. They were so beautiful that she was easily persuaded by the salesman to buy a set of canvas covers to protect the leather. These covers, to be sure, were ugly—as coarse as Boy Scout pup tents—but she bought them and had them fitted onto the suitcases. The covers remained on the suitcases while they were aboard ship, and as they had been in each city only a few days she had not bothered to remove them, but now she decided to see if the leather was being protected. She unfastened one of the canvas jackets, peeled it halfway off, and there—as beautiful as though still on display—the leather gleamed. Well pleased, she buttoned on the cover.
If you enjoyed this post, please share it!