Josh Ritter’s Bright’s Passage: Languid, Rural Prose Circa WWI


So I read– [hold the phone–

……. I despise that word, the past tense of “read.”  I really want to spell it differently, but “red” ‘s already taken and “rehd”– though brilliant– is a stretch too far for most…  So maybe I should just never, ever use that word again.  Anyway…]

So I perused me a book this weekend:  Bright’s Passage by Josh Ritter.  Ritter is a successful, and to my tastes, muy talented singer-songwriter.  As a man, myself, who attempts to gain some skill and knowledge in a wide range of fields, I was intrigued to find out if this young man, so talented in one field, could also work some magic in another field.  In this age of specialization, I am overjoyed to find anyone seriously pursuing careers or pass-times in multiple fields.

Ritter is, indeed, a talented writer.  He is very good at describing the little details of country life.  He brings a no-nonsense style to this book that makes even the appearance of an Angel seem some mundane happenstance– an event one can accept with a shrug and move on to the next paragraph.

I’m not going to do a super serious entry on Bright’s Passage.   Though the novel is written with skill, the lazy-jaunt style became too pedestrian, too languid for me.  The story –set just before, during, and after World War One (and told in flashback style)– eddies too long and too often around character relationships and their laconic conversations and their simple but intricately described activities.  And all too often, I felt nothing new was added to my knowledge of the characters or their desires in these scenes; they only reiterated what I already knew about them.

Basically, a simple and not particularly bright young man is being pursued by a simple and not particularly bright old man.

Indeed, there is some suspense to carry the story along, for those in the mood for a leisurely country stroll of a book:  I for one was intrigued to discover if the Angel turned out to be real or a figment of the main character’s imagination.  I won’t tell you how that worked out, but I will say that it was only about a “B-” score as far as mystery wrap-ups go.  The major suspense (a sort of sleepy suspensefulness) of the story centers around the well-being of the main character and his newborn son– as in, will they make it, and what will become of them?  But it wasn’t enough for me.

Ritter is a better than average writer–and not afraid to take his time and write-it-up old school style, like a young Cormac McCarthy– so I’ll be keeping my eye on his work.  And of course, an ear (or two) on his music.


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