Upon re-reading my original, several-weeks-old notes for the construction of this post, I’ve come to the conclusion that I did not like this book, this Street of the Three Friends by Myron Brinig, which was considered for the 1954 Pulitzer. Now, I’m making myself a little vulnerable here by distinctly declaring actual dislike for a novel associated with the Pulitzers, something I have absolutely avoided up to this point (haven’t I?), but I felt this was a milestone, something needing called attention to simply because my notes were just that drab and disconsolate. Still, I hesitate. I mean, the book was considered for a Pulitzer. But then…it didn’t win, did it? Tee-hee.
So, okay, the novel does open on a semi-interesting character, a college professor from Illinois who’s in Paris, you know, Paris, ooh-la-la. Why is he in Paris? I don’t remember, I wasn’t very interested. But anyway, he meets a woman at a cocktail party, a charming 40-something from Oklahoma who lives in Paris…ooh-blah-blah, and what follows feels like some sort of personal authorial record of a few scenes and characters Brinig had thought at one time were notable and should be recorded in some larger document and literary context. I mean there’s so little at stake in the book. The difficulties the characters have experienced are in the past and they seem to be pretty resolved, not to mention that those past difficulties actually seem rather frivolous and the sufferings seem like probable exaggerations. Ugh. The best part of this book was a joke it makes about Texans and the story about the mother who loves funerals. Now, I do have to say, it did confirm in me a desire to visit Venice and Bring did quote my favorite Walt Whitman line, “Do I contradict myself. I contradict myself. I contain multitudes.” But really? The main character, our professor from Illinois, falls for that woman, that 40-something from Oklahoma? She’s clearly a man-eater, I mean, pretty clearly, I mean … ok, so I might be able to see her charm. Ugh. I make me sick.
Myron Brinig did leave quite a legacy. He wrote 21 novels during his 29 year career, many of them about life in Montana. He saw one of his novels The Sisters made into a film starring Bette Davis and Errol Flynn (speaking of ooh-la-la). He read Whitman, studied at New York University, almost made good with Columbia University (that would be a Pulitzer Prize reference), and lived through most of the 20th century. I don’t envy him the GI bleed that seems to have taken his life, but he did at least get to go out in the bosom of modern medicine. And people are still reading his book(s). Ok, so I am. Reluctantly. With some grousing, that bitterest of joys. “Do I contradict myself?”
Craig is reading all the Pulitzer-prize winning novels in chronological order. Begin following his journey here.