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Alexander's Bridge (1912)

por Willa Cather

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4082448,363 (3.43)85
Against a backdrop of delicate imagery, Willa Cather explores the tough inner terrain of a man in mid-life crisis. Bartley Alexander is a master bridge engineer at the height of his power, comfortable with success and all it brings. Yet he yearns for the lost vibrancy of his youth and so leads a double life, veering between his beautiful, accomplished wife and his mistress, an actress he knew as a student in Paris.… (mais)
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Biography
  hpryor | Aug 8, 2021 |
22. Alexander's Bridge by Willa Cather
published: 1912
format: 97-page paperback
acquired: June 2020
read: Jun 5
time reading: 2:26, 1.5 mpp
rating: 4
locations: Boston, London and New York – especially London.
about the author: born near Winchester, VA, later raised in Red Cloud, NE. December 7, 1873 – April 24, 1947

Cather's first novel is one she sort of wanted to take back. She later published an essay on how her real first novel was [O Pioneers!] (pub. 1913), and this one instead a kind of false start, overly influenced by and designed to impress the literary crowd she had become a part of. It's a nice novel, but one that only hints at Cather's later strengths.

One thing I felt was different here was the persistent exploration of psychology. The book is roughly a tragedy, one of Bartley Alexander, an American engineer. He has made himself something of a heroic bridge builder, called to work in Canada, London, Paris and Tokyo among other places. But his admirers can see how unhappy he is. Early on we're told he probably doesn't remember his own childhood. His admiring one-time professor explains "He was never introspective. He was simply the most tremendous response to stimuli I have ever known." And later, "No past, no future for Bartley; just the fiery moment. The only moment that ever was or will be in the world."

The same professor foreshadows our bridge-builder's future - right to him. He tells him, "The more dazzling the front you presented, the higher your facade rose, the more I expected to see a big crack zigzagging from top to bottom...then a crash and clouds of dust." Further, he observes to himself, "... that even after dinner, when most men achieve a decent impersonality, Bartley had merely closed the door of the engine-room and come up for an airing. The machinery itself was still pounding on."

Cather doesn't stop there with Bartely. But the stage is set. This force of nature runs, almost naturally, almost carelessly into an extra-marital affair, and then heads to disaster. The strain of managing his secret second life starts to pull him apart, without him able to understand it. (bridge metaphors intended) As the book goes forward, Bartley's internal tension increases, and the text reflects that.

The main complaint about the book, from Cather herself, as well as other critics, is that themes are oversimplified. And probably they are. But for 2.5 hours reading, it was a nice insight into her early thinking and writing.

2021
https://www.librarything.com/topic/330945#7524281 ( )
1 vote dchaikin | Jun 6, 2021 |
This book was initially three stars, but Cather paints the moment of crisis so well, that you glimpse her brilliance at portraying the human psyche. A fast, fairly engaging read. ( )
1 vote DrFuriosa | Dec 4, 2020 |
Alexander's Bridge was Willa Cather's first book, published in 1912.

Alexander Bartley is a bridge builder who has acquired international fame for his ability to build the worlds most daring and advanced bridges. But he doesn't like the attention he receives and yearns for a simpler life. He is married to an intelligent woman who is an heiress and American socialite. They live in Boston and he enjoys their life together although he must be away from home often.

When he runs across a former flame in London, he becomes involved with her again, agonizing over the unfairness to both women. Juggling work on a bridge in Canada that is not going well, his wife in Boston, and his lover in London, becomes more than Alexander can cope with and he begins to unravel.

I like that Cather made all of the characters, including Alexander, sympathetic. Although written over 100 years ago, it could easily be written for the current time. Even in this first book the writing is beautiful. Her skills will grow and her next book, O! Pioneers, will be more nuanced. Still, this novella is well worth reading. ( )
  clue | Dec 21, 2019 |
Really excellent psychological novella about a successful and gifted man whose dual life demons haunt him. ( )
  AliceAnna | Sep 21, 2019 |
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Willa Catherautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculated
Lee, HermioneIntroduçãoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Lindemann, MarileeEditorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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Late one brilliant April afternoon Professor Lucius Wilson stood at the head of Chestnut Street, looking about him with the pleased air of a man of taste who does not very often get to Boston.
It is difficult to comply with the publisher's request that I write a preface for this new edition of an early book. (Preface)
On 29 August 1907, the great cantilever bridge that was being built over the St. Lawrence River in Quebec collapsed and fell, with a terrible sound of grinding steel and snapping girders, shouts of terror and the booming crash of cables. (Introduction)
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Against a backdrop of delicate imagery, Willa Cather explores the tough inner terrain of a man in mid-life crisis. Bartley Alexander is a master bridge engineer at the height of his power, comfortable with success and all it brings. Yet he yearns for the lost vibrancy of his youth and so leads a double life, veering between his beautiful, accomplished wife and his mistress, an actress he knew as a student in Paris.

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