The Bridges of Madison County

The Bridges of Madison County, Robert James Waller, 1992

This story is beautifully paced and well-constructed.  It uses the old device of masquerading as a true story but that is a good choice that adds gravitas to the tale.  And it was the right choice to write this as a novella; it is concise and avoids a lot of dreary, explicit sex and grubby soul searching that would have been poured in to pad out the pages to make give it the length of a novel.  Waller does allow space for an excellent epilogue that ties it up nicely.  I hate mushy endings and this one is nicely poignant; something to chew over – and discuss if you are member of a book circle.

I don’t think a literary snob would describe The Bridges… as literature but it is sufficiently original, homely and philosophical to be worthy of being considered a minor classic.

This is an imaginary autobiography or, perhaps, a biography of the man the author aspires to be.  This does not diminish the achievement; the central character, Kincaid, is the man many of us would like to identify with and, therefore, a suitable character to travel with while we escape into the pages.

I cannot know whether writer, and sometime photographer, Robert James is more, or less, than writer and photographer  Robert Kincaid.  I assume he may be less, since he had the temerity to publish a sequel to a story with an end so final and so complete that it could not have a sequel.  Except in the case of Harper Lee a sequel is diminishing for an author.  I suppose we must bow to Mammon if we need to eat, or just need more approval.

The film.  I though I’d better watch the movie, to see how much it fell short of the book, as movies nearly always do.  This was no exception, despite the cast of Eastwood and Streep.

The film managed to be overly sentimental and suffered by having actors too well know.  Although Clint Eastwood has the right amount of grit and laconic discourse and Meryl Streep employs her skills sensitively and competently, this tale needed unfamiliar faces in order to tell its moving story of ordinary people.  Thankfully, we were spared the epilogue which would have been too much in a movie that had already succumbed to the grimy padding that the novella avoided.  I enjoyed the film, but not a lot.

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