read online Audible The BridgeAuthor Iain Banks – Blockdiagramwiring.co
Just one thing I nod at the bodies littering the ground like fallen leaves What happened here What happened to all these people He shrugs They didn t listen to their dreams, he says, then turns back to his task pp.362 363Like skywriting in Braille the late Iain Banks early novel The Bridge is hard to get a grip on The comparisons that spring to my mind are mostly cinematic think David Lynch s Mulholland Drive, or perhaps Adrian Lyne s Jacob s Ladder.Feverish and multilayered, The Bridge is a challenging work, not easy to appreciate, or to synopsize A man lies in a coma after a car crash in Scotland an amnesiac tries to fit into the linear society he finds living on an apparently endless bridge a barbarian warrior battles sorcery while ridden by a magical familiar This is Banks without the M., the initialless persona he used for his mimetic fiction, but the veil between fantasy and realism here is very thin Most of The Bridge appears to be fabulation, in fact the great Bridge itself is a setting worthy of China Mi ville, and there are swathes of a swashbuckling sword and sorcery tale told in the barbarian s near impenetrable dialect It seems likely from the beginning that all of these narrators are the same person, but if so which one is the real man, and which ones the butterflies merely dreaming that they are men And did it really take me than 300 pages to remember that bridge has than one meaning No annihilation without representation, Stewart, p.330The Bridge seemed steeped in the UK s politics of the 1980s, and in that way akin to fellow Scots author Alasdair Gray s work than other Banks novels Elsewhere in his conversation with Stewart, for example, our narrator speculates on whether Scotland could ever have become an empire the way Rome did His conclusion is that by the time the Scots became civilized themselves, they d missed their chance they were already too late to become world civilizers.She laughed, shook her head Well, love is blind, she said So they tell us, he sighed Can t see it myself p.278Despite its bizarre trappings, exotic digressions and flights of outright fancy, though, The Bridge seems to me at its heart to convey a simple message, one that s utterly mundane that although love may be blind, it s also strong it ll find a way to express itself even though the rest of the world may have gone mad.Ach, mebbe I ve just gone a bit daft arter a hunnerd and fourty years wi this wee bugger whisperin on me showlder Banks apparently thinks this is his best novel, and I agree A very fine interleaving of dream and reality, without making the connections overly clear Kafka meets the Wizard of Oz. A Darkly Brilliant Novel Of Self Discovery The Cutting Edge Of Experimental Fiction It Leads From Nowhere To Nowhere, The Mysterious World Spanning Structure On Which Everyone Seems To Live Rescued From The Sea, Devoid Of Personality Or Memory, All John Orr Knows Is The Bridge, His Persistent Dreams Of War, And His Desire For Chief Engineer Arrol S Provocative Daughter, Abberlaine What the hell this is so boring and aimless, and just not very well crafted either I have to return to Murakami s rule from 1Q84 if the reader hasn t seen something before, you should take extra time to describe it.And I knew it I knew if I even caught a sniff of criticism of this book they would call it Kafka esque , everyone s favourite shorthand for weird and depressing People praise Murakami for his true understanding of Kafka, and I have to praise him too because I don t get Kafka, but I have a strong inkling for what someone is going to call Kafka esque, which often only tells me that the critic is reminded of Kafka, and not necessarily that the writing has any qualities of Kafka Incidentally, this also feels like the depths of Banks understanding of Kafka Kafka.Okay, so this is a book about psychology and an in depth exploration of our relationships, but first and foremost, it may come as a surprise that it s actually about a fucking bridge And if you go I got in the lift, I went to the building where is the lift The building, in relation to the bridge Alongside it Does it occlude the passage along the bridge Then your character goes beneath the bridge and starts cutting about I didn t even know what the top of the bridge looked like Now you re underneath it What s there I am given next to no tools to visualise this bridge, the buildings etc.If you re going to build a weird world, well build it If you have a message about relationships, don t expect to wow me with psychoanalysis and literary quality before you have a plot, characters and oh god a setting.Go home literature, you re drunk I forgot Beckett, too Was it weird and depressing Yeah Didyageddit No Beckett Scottish walking about Considering my affection for Banks, it s remarkable how this book was about as enjoyable as a two by four across the forehead I found it tedious and depressing. I love bridges, I spent much of my childhood designing them and building models I love pictures and photographs of, and books about bridges, and I love the engineering aspects I sit on bridges, under bridges, and looking at bridges, and feel complete I love the Forth Bridge in Scotland, from when I first saw it on The 39 Steps Hitchcock to when my Dad took me up there when I was 10 And I like Iain Banks who was brought up on the Fife side of the Forth Bridge So when I read this knockout fantasy set within the girders of the Forth Bridge, a Bridge become a universe, you will not wonder why I give it 5 stars There is a neat parable called he Bridge by Kafka, too And Annie Lennox has something to do with it. Hypnagogic, mesmerising, hallucinatory the melding of the real with the vanished, the imaginary, the may never have been A bridge becomes the whole architectonic world of a mind, and vice versa As experiment in stretching a formal conceit to an aesthetic project, Bank s saran wrap of metal over narrative succeeds grandly.In the Bridge, the usual Banksian tropes plonk into Being the requisite names which suggest familiarity but which maintain an air of oddity serve only to estrange, to make the quasi real unreal the preoccupation with war as fundus of the human heart, at root of all Sappy love stories between people Modern day Scotland Amenesia as conventient vehicle to knit together and explain all the above Tightly written or should I say welded, this is probably the Best non M Banks that Banks has done For all its head in the clouds freewheeling, the book doesn t lose its feet the book is firmly undergirt by the monolithic structure of the bridge indeed, dominated in fact by it, and Bank s artistic enterprise succeeds because of it Compelling and fun. When I first read The Bridge in my late teens, it had a huge impact on me I d never really read anything quite like it before the blending of social realism and the science fiction fantasy world of The Bridge itself Returning to it nearly twenty years later, I found it an enjoyable enough read, but couldn t help noticing its flaws It isn t either quite as original or as clever as I had remembered it.At the risk of a very minor spoiler I think it s reasonably apparent to anyone who reads the first page properly , the book tells two stories One, the story of John Orr, a man who washes up with no idea who he is or how he got there, at the foot of a quite surreal civilisation living on a phantasmagorically huge bridge The other, the story of an un named man though I have read that you can work out that he s called Alex Lennox from the diagrams of the Bridge in the book and his surname, at least, is corroborated by a reference to the lead singer of the Eurythmics from a working class Glasgwegian background who arrives at Edinburgh University in the late 1960s, falls in love with the upper class Andrea Cramond, has a rather unconventional menage a trois relationship with her over the following eighteen years, while building up a successful engineering firm, all the while feeling an underlying discomfort that he is somehow betraying his working class roots The two characters are, of course, the same person The Bridge sections play out as he lies in a hospital bed in a coma, following a traffic accident Part of the fun comes from spotting how elements of the fantasy world connect back to his own life story the first time I read it, I remember reaching the end and immediately beginning again and getting rather out of it second time around The horseman he meets at the beginning of the novel is clearly meant to stand in for Andrea s other lover, Abberlaine Arrol, the woman he seduces on The Bridge, is an imperfect facsimile of Andrea, and in the sequences later in the book where he leaves the Bridge and goes out and finds himself in a war torn wasteland beyond, there appears to be a kind of metaphor for the way that his adult life began to go off the rails I don t know if I m unusual in having a number of long running narrative fictions floating about in my head some of which I have been toying with since I was twelve years old , worlds I can easily enough float into when on a long train journey, or even just walking home from work, but reading this, I couldn t help thinking that it was in part about how what we imagine reflects back on our own life stories John Orr s world can t help but be constructed from the fragments of Alex Lennox s life Even when he s imagining living on the vast science fiction world of the Bridge, that world still ends up echoing the real world from which he has been cut off So why wasn t I quite so impressed with it second time around Well perhaps in part it s just that I ve since realised it s not nearly as original as I thought at the time Having since read Haruki Murakami, for example, I realise that there are others who can meld the real and the fantastical and , in some ways, do so to interesting effect And I don t know quite how I ploughed through the awful though thankfully short phonetic Scots sections about a barbarian swordsman and his familiar which didn t feel like they belonged in the same book While the book does a very good job of portraying its central character, I couldn t help thinking that just about everyone else seemed very sketchily drawn I never really understood what it was that drew him to Andrea, for example, because I never really got much of a sense of who Andrea actually was And there were times when some of The Bridge sequences felt like reading accounts of other peoples dreams But I don t want to sound too negative If the book doesn t mean quite so much to me at 36 as it did at 18, perhaps the story of a man arriving in Edinburgh at 18 was always going to appeal to me then than now There s much to recommend in it there s a lyricism to his description of Lennox s early years, and there are many great one liners I particularly liked Lennox s drunken rant about the 1984 US Presidential election which he ends by saying Why don t I get a vote , to which his friend replies No annihilation without representation, eh There are Easter eggs for want of a better term for those who go looking for them too Abberlaine Arrol s surname is a reference to the man who designed the Forth Rail Bridge, and the fact that the main character s name is Alex may just be an intertextual joke, as that was the name of Duncan Thaw s son in Lanark a book which Iain Banks admitted was a strong influence There are almost certainly many that passed me by I suspect the fraudulent Bridge psychiatrist Joyce might be a reference to James, but its relevance as someone who s never so much as attempted Ulysses passed me by Worth revisiting, even if you can t stand in the same river twice I m not changing the 5 star rating That s what I thought at the time And I d still give it four I was watching Grey s Anatomy, Season 13, Episode 4 At 35 minutes in, Owen Hunt was lying in bed and reading a book I have paused this scene and kept going backwards and forwards trying to figure out what book he was reading And now half an hour later here I am, knowing the book and adding it to my TBR pile I may never get to it, but the satisfaction of actually finding this book is too big It makes me realise we spend so much time choosing books in today s fast world And sometimes, when a book finds us, it is a miraculous moment, and I want to cherish this moment forever This review contains a mild spoiler I don t know if you can call it a spoiler, because the book description as well as the Publishers Weekly review both give it away I think that s a crying shame, although it s not really a spoiler that would take a lot of brain cells to figure out on your own Anyway, I wouldn t mention it in my review if it weren t a key reason why I disliked the novel Are you ready Here it is It s all a dream.Sigh This book was written 25 years ago, but even then the it was all a dream scenario wasn t really all that fresh or interesting, and it takes a heckuva a lot of talent to pull it off without getting readers to feel like they ve wasted their time After all, absolutely anything can happen in dreams, and so it s never really a surprise when anything does Say goodbye to plot, conflict, tension, drama, or any of the other structural bits and pieces that authors use to guide their storytelling The most you can do with it was all a dream is connect it in some way to reality and hope that the bridge is meaningful or profound in some way.The metaphor of the bridge is a pretty hefty one here Suffering from amnesia, our narrator is fished from the waters around a bridge This is no ordinary bridge It s so large that it seems to have no beginning or ending, and an entire civilization lives among its beams and girders This is, in fact, a really cool idea and worth exploring Meanwhile, our narrator is asked by his therapist to provide him with examples of his nightly dreams Since he doesn t remember his dreams, he makes them up At first This is also a pretty interesting concept, and the narrator s dreams both real and fake are pretty fascinating stuff.But it s really all just a fictional gumbo The narrative voice slips and slides for no reason other than to increase the disorienting effect of the dreamscape Different stories including one about a warrior and his smart mouthed familiar gain and lose prominence as the book goes on The narrator, inexplicably, makes it off of the bridge and into a city that appears to be at war Then he comes back Then there s a desert Back and forth Up and down There s no consistency to any of it, but that s because it s a dream, you see.The thing is, no one likes to be told about your dreams It doesn t matter how cool your dream is to you, or even what cool ideas there are in it, if you start to explain your dream to someone and it lasts longer than a minute, they ll start getting that glazed look in their eyes I felt the exact same way about this book Once it became apparent that this was all just some kind of coma dream, it developed a hollow, very aimless feeling, and I ended up wishing it were over sooner.Banks does include a description of the narrator s life when he was awake, and it s actually kind of impressive how well he conveys an entire life with such economy of language You speed through his childhood and school years and well into his adulthood, marking his successes and failures and even the size of his bald spot Much of his life centers around an unconventional relationship with a woman But, even though it s nifty how slickly Banks condenses this man s personality and life into such a small space, the guy and his history aren t especially compelling Even the kinda sorta open relationship that he has feels just as hollow and aimless as the dream world he spends most of the book inhabiting And no, it s pretty clear that that isn t the point of the book.While it was probably a ton of fun to write and while there are elements here and there that are imaginative and stimulating, the whole experience is ultimately as unsatisfying as trying to remember the details of your own dreams an hour after waking It s ultimately unsuccessful, and you end up wondering why you re even bothering.