Three Bridges
James Wilson
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Buy *Three Bridges* by James Wilsononline

Three Bridges
James Wilson
Neverland Publishing
Paperback
148 pages
June 2014
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Unique, expertly written and infinitely memorable, Three Bridges by James Wilson is a notable debut. "A novella-in-triptych," the book presents a touching commentary about revisiting old relationships. Not surprisingly, Wilson is an experienced writer, the author of two books of poems and an essay collection as well as the translator of two Guy de Maupassant works and a fiction contributor to several literary journals. Only a veteran wordsmith could pull off such an innovative novel. The author interweaves three distinctly different sections about chance interactions and utilizes stark photos of London's historic bridges to emphasize human connections.

Wilson begins his book with a quote from Byron--a touchpoint that readers should return to as they reflect on the central themes of the book. His narrator, friends Chris, Gavin, Catherine and Leon, all share bits of themselves when revisiting past relationships. Honest depictions about the true and false emotions and reactions earmark coincidental meetings with important individuals from past lives.

I really resented (and I really resent) the part of my brain that was insinuating (that does insinuate) that we were only playing at having a pleasant time. But I do wonder. I do wonder. As soon as you step back from something, as soon as you look back, even at the very most recent occurrences, it does all appear unreal. This is if it appears at all. We have to do it though, don't we? We can't stop doing it. Assessing. Looking back and assessing.
Readers who have seen or crossed the three bridges--Blackfriars, London and Southwark--will never again think of them as simple transportation avenues. Readers who have not seen these bridges will romanticize about future trips to view sites that are not only backdrops to daily drama but also the focus for self-reflection.
Blackfriars Bridge is Janus-faced, it seems. On the eastern side it carries carvings of various seabirds on its pillars; on the western side are images of freshwater fowl. The two sets of ornithological ornaments are said to represent Blackfriars as a tidal turning point of the Thames. To me, however, the two faces it proffers both look backwards: one at what was; the other at what might have been; and neither tableau seems firmer or fainter than the other, both shimmering beneath the same gauzy light of speculation that can't quite leave anything alone.
Often with such a slim volume, readers would be left craving additional information, especially on the unnamed narrator. In Three Bridges however, Wilson etches enough of the narrator's inner substance that readers feel a familiarity without the conventional name, age, etc. details. Instead we are treated to a character imparting universal information, honest reflections that stir similar memories of our own, driving most readers to more truthful assessments of past and current interactions.

The poet in Wilson is evident. He delivers indelible images:

...a girl who sports overhead earphones passed each morning without acknowledgment, then vanished forever into the anonymity she had never properly emerged from, like the eyes and nostrils of a crocodile, sinisterly sinking back beneath the surface of a waterhole.

...a force of destruction that would hollow me out from the inside and then pinch my empty carapace until it shattered, like a discarded half of a pistachio shell...

We threw out some hesitant queries--queries not yet demanding of answers, but just limbering up, performing conversational stretches, so to speak.

To feel like an actor in your own life--that has got to be one of the most undermining feelings possible...but, of course, I really have no say in the matter.
The universal themes, the historical photos, the fine language... Savor this rare, truly creative work.



Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. Leslie Raith, 2015

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