PPRL: The Bridge of San Luis Rey, by Thornton Wilder (winner, 1928)

The Bridge of San Luis Rey is a blazingly smart and utterly absorbing little book; I only put it down once. Reading it is like descending an ornate spiral staircase, alongside which runs a wall filled with alcoves containing tiny, curious treasures. These artifacts call to you, so you pick them up and turn them over in your hands for a moment - but the lure of what lays at the bottom of the stairs is too great, so you keep going down, down, down. And when you reach the cellar you find yourself in a place that's at once totally strange but somehow comforting. You don't want to leave. You know you could learn a lot here.

It's just delightful. Wise, colorful, simple in scope but grand in effect, The Bridge of San Luis Rey is a goldmine for existentialist inquiry but never mind that - it's also just a really fun ride. No discussion questions this time, just a handful of annotated quotes:

"...authors always live in the noble weather of their own minds and those productions which seem remarkable to us are little better than a day's routine to them." (Oh to be such, to live and write as such.)

"She saw that the people of this world moved about in an armor of egotism, drunk with self-gazing, athirst for compliments, hearing little of what was said to them, unmoved by the accidents that befell their closest friends, in dread of all appeals that might interrupt their long communion with their own desires." (This was written in 1927. Nineteen twenty-seven. Prescient much, Thornton? #socialmedia)

"The glazed eyes moved to the girl's face. Pepita shook her gently. With great effort Dona Maria tried to fix her mind on what was being said to her. Twice she lay back, refusing to seize the meaning, but at last, like a general calling together in a rain and by night the dispersed division of his army she assembled memory and attention and a few other faculties and painfully pressing her hand to her forehead she asked for a bowl of snow." (Best description of a hangover ever.)

"Now he discovered that secret from which one never quite recovers, that even in the most perfect love one person loves less profoundly than the other. There may be two equally good, equally gifted, equally beautiful, but may never be two that love one another equally well." (Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Wilder, New Era romance columnist)

"He possessed the six attributes of the adventurer--a memory for names and faces, with the aptitude for altering his own; the gift of tongues; inexhaustible invention; secrecy; the talent for falling into conversation with strangers; and that freedom from conscience that springs from a contempt for the dozing rich he preyed upon."

"He respected the slight nervous shadow that crossed her face when he came too near her. But there arose out of this denial itself the perfume of a tenderness, that ghost of passion which, in the most unexpected relationship, can make even a whole lifetime devoted to irksome duty pass like a gracious dream." (Nuanced, true, relatable, perfect.)

"He regarded love as a sort of cruel malady through which the elect are required to pass in their late youth and from which they emerge, pale and wrung, but ready for the business of living."

"Like all solitary persons he had invested friendship with a divine glamour; he imagined that the people he passed on the street, laughing together and embracing when they parted, the people who dined together with so many smiles--you will scarcely believe me, but he imagined that they were extracting from all that congeniality great store of satisfaction."

"She had accepted the fact that it was of no importance whether her work went on or not; it was enough to work. She was the nurse who tends the sick who never recover; she was the priest who perpetually renews the office before an altar to which no worshippers come." (She was the blogger who continued to publish even in the face of an ever more dismal Alexa-ranking...)

"But soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left the earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning." (I told you - wise and delightful, and you won't want to leave.)