85. Mrs. Bridge, by Evan S. Connell
Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell, with sixty-eight photographs by Laurie Simmons and an introductory essay by Mark Oppenheimer, September 2009.
Published in 1959, Mrs. Bridge is a quiet masterpiece of mid-twentieth-century fiction, and this edition celebrates its fiftieth anniversary. A novel of the American heart-land, it takes up familiar themes, set in a comfortable middle-class Midwestern family in the decades before World War II. At the same time, it is experimental in form, a work that unobtrusively advances the art of the novel.
The book includes 68 photographs, half duo-tone and half color, by Laurie Simmons. Simmons is a leading American artist who uses photography to explore the role of women in the domestic sphere. Beginning in the mid-1970s when she took photographs for a toy company catalog, Simmons has been fascinated with the artifacts of the household. During the remaining years of that decade she used dolls and doll house walls, furniture, and fixtures to make set-ups for photographs. These works established her as one of the most important artists in photography in the United States. The images in this book were selected from that series.
Evan Connell (1924-2013) has long been considered the overlooked master of the American novel, with Mrs. Bridge and its companion volume, Mr. Bridge, published in 1969, among the notable achievements of his early career. These apparently straight-forward accounts of an uneventful marriage, told from the wife’s and then the husband’s perspective, are breathtaking in their psychological acuity, social insight, wit, and compassion.
The reputation of Evan Connell has been a puzzle to his legions of admirers, who have ranged from Dorothy Parker to Paul Newman. A writer of unmistakable talent and dedication who has published twenty books, he is nevertheless absent from the literary pantheon of his generation. As Mark Oppenheimer explains in the introduction to the Arion Press edition: “The three decades after World War II were the time of the American Jewish writer…. With a tide of praise for Jewish writers, there was less water to buoy up their Gentile peers. One last bit of unfinished business, then, is to recognize Connell, a chronicler of American Protestant suffering, whose masterpiece, Mrs. Bridge, was published in 1959. That was the year of Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus and Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King. It is not hard to see why Mrs. Bridge was overlooked. But it is time to make amends.”
Opperheimer adds, “I can’t think of another novel in which a male author describes so generously an older woman; what has roused the author’s compassion is not a sister figure, or a daughter, but a mother. And we sympathize in equal measure with the impatient children and their mom, whom the children know could be so much more, and whose limitations they hope they have not inherited.”
For thirty-five years, Connell’s career was associated with San Francisco, where he was a founder of the literary magazine Contact. Prior to the commercial success of his 1984 best-seller on General Custer, Son of the Morning Star, Connell held a day job as an interviewer in the municipal unemployment office. His Bridge novels were the basis of a 1990 film, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, starring his fans Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Since 1989, Connell has lived and worked in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
THE BOOK AND EDITION
The book is large octavo in format, page size 10-1/2 by 8 inches, and consists of 274 numbered pages and 68 unnumbered pages for the photographs. The type is Binny, composed and cast in Monotype, 12 point for the text. The printing of the text is by letterpress. The photographs are printed by offset photo-lithography. The paper is Mohawk Superfine, as in this prospectus. The binding is full yellow Iris cloth, with color photographs by Laurie Simmons on the front and back covers. The edition of the book is limited to 300 numbered copies for sale and 26 lettered copies for complimentary distribution, all signed by the author and the artist. The price is $550 per copy. Available.
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Edition:The book is large octavo in format, page size 10-1/2 by 8 inches, and consists of 274 numbered pages, plus unnumbered pages for 34 color photographs and 34 black and white photographs, printed as duotones. The binding is full yellow Iris cloth, with color photographs by Laurie Simmons on the front and back covers. The edition of the book is limited to 300 numbered copies for sale, all signed by the author and the artist. The price is $550 per copy.
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Novelist James Patterson lauds Mrs. Bridge on NPR
Bestselling novelist James Patterson cites Evan S. Connell's Mrs. Bridge as the novel that most influenced his writing style, in a commentary on NPR's "All Things Considered" this week. Patterson's books have sold more than 170 million copies, and he points to the precision and compassion of Connell's prose as an inspiration: "I think you'll find Mrs. Bridge a serious, but highly entertaining novel. It manages to be comic and satirical, but also kind and gentle. I loved it the first, second, and third time I read it — and it certainly helped inspire my writing style. Short chapters, compactness, and clarity." The Arion Press 50th anniversary edition of Mrs. Bridge, with photographs by Laurie Simmons, was just released in September. Read more.