34 / CHRONICLESnwrong. Connell is full of respect fornMrs. Bridge; and while Connell’snmind and prose are often ironic, therenis a world of difference between thenprofound understanding of human naturenlatent within irony and the necessarilynsharp and brilliant artifices ofnsatire.nTen years after Mrs. Bridge camenMr. Bridge (1968). Connell wasnenough of a novelist to realize thatncharacters are more complicated thannplots; and it was perhaps his historicalnsense that made him realize, too, thatnplots are, by necessity, one-dimensional,nand that therefore they must benseen and retold from different humannangles. He tried this in Mr. Bridge,nwhere he failed. He failed for thenreason that Mr. Bridge, more thannMrs. Bridge, is a portrait of a man,nrather than a description of a certainntime. In Mrs. Bridge the portrait andnthe atmosphere have their equivalences;nin Mr. Bridge they do not. Mr.nBridge fails because of the success ofnWalter Bridge’s portraiture withinnMrs. Bridge. Reading Mrs. Bridge onendoes not only come to know her husbandnintimately and in detail: the verynpicture of Walter Bridge—that tall,nangular, thinly red-haired, spare andnslightly paunchy Kansas City lawyer;nand this in the prose of a writer whonusually does not care to describe thenphysical appearances of his charactersnin great detail—is complete.nOf course Mr. Bridge may be readnand enjoyed separately from its predecessor:nbut because of Mrs. Bridge,nMr. Bridge became an unnecessarynbook. It has, however, its high points.nIn one of its vignettes, Connell describesnthe uneasy evening when Wal­nThe Critic’s LashnLIBERAL ARTSnSome authors can’t take constructivencriticism. Shelley blamed Keats’s deathnon hostile critics, and Gordon Rogoff,nwriting in American Theater, explainsnTennessee Williams’ frenetic life-stylenas an answer to critic/biographernDonald Spoto:nIsn’t it just possible that thenwicked, exploitive, sexualnWilliams, leaping over towns,ncountries and beds in thenter Bridge is made aware—forcefully,ncrampedly made aware—by his faithfulnsecretary Julia that she has been innlove with him. Julia is on the way tonold-maidenhood. She lives with hernolder sister. She fails to seduce WalternBridge to their apartment.nHe had never inquired how shenfelt about this. It was easy tonimagine, just as it was easy tonimagine the interior of theirnapartment. [There follows andescription of its genteelnclutter.] … all the junk twonunmarried sisters would collectnto prevent themselves fromnadmitting the truth. No doubtnthe place smelled of medicine.nTokens of poor health litteringnthe rooms like a bird’s nestnsprinkled with broken eggshells,nWalter Bridge may be a stuffy old birdnbut he is not a fool; and Evan Connellnis a fine writer, not the least becausenhe knows how to use his eye and hisnnose, too.nAnd now 15 years pass before thenMorning Star appears. Much waternhas flown under the Bridges, and bynthe nature of things, much that EvannConnell wrote was overlooked andnsoon forgotten. Perhaps Saint Augustine’snPigeon (1980) is the best selectionnof his short stories. But EvannConnell is not a short-story writer. Hencreates characters rather than plots;nwhat is more important, his vision isntoo large for the short story. This isnespecially so in his two long shortnstories and his two short novels about anrecurrent character named Muhlbachnliving near or in the Waste Land ofnNew York, where Muhlbach wouldncompany of beautiful, exploitiven[sic], unquestioning boys wasnmerely running away fromnstuffy Spotos telling himnincessantly how not to write anplay?nKeats took the easy way out.nnnlike to but really can’t eat the proverbialnpeach.nPerhaps the best of his stories are thentwo successive ones (“The Walls ofnAvila” and “The Palace of MoorishnKings”) about the recounhng of foreignntravels by one J.D. among angroup of his former friends in KansasnCity who are respectful and ruefulnand, in the end, resentful of himnbecause he has returned to them in thenend, without a cent to his name, tonsettle down to a humdrum marriednlife. There are splendid sentencesn(“Through the picture window wencould see a maple loaded like a treasurengalleon with red gold”) and veryngood passages in it (“Our childhoodncame and went before we were readynto grasp it. Things were different now.nThe winged seeds that gyrate downnfrom the trees now mean nothing elsenbut that we must sweep them from thenautomobile hood because stains on thenfinish lower the trade-in value. Now,nin short, it was imprachcal to live asnwe used to live with the abandon of anmule rolling in the dust”).nThe odd thing is that Connell’s twonbook-length prose poems, Notes Fromna Bottle Found on the Beach at Carmeln(1962) and Points for a Compass Rosen(1973), are less poehc than some ofnthese passages. Save for their typographicalnarrangement and their cryphcnintensity, they are not really poems.nThey have something in commonnwith Pound’s Cantos, but they areninfinitely more coherent than thenCantos. They have something in common,ntoo, with the dark Far Westernnpessimism of Robinson Jeffers. Theynhave the qualities of an incompletenmosaic, suffused with historical knowledgenand speculation. They may benread with profit at random. EvannConnell is a master of historical andnpoetic prose rather than of prosaic andnhistorical verse.nWhether he is aware of that wencannot tell. But there is evidence thatnhe is aware of how all prose belongsnnow within the Kingdom of Historyn—even though we must recognize thatnthe latter is not a centralized sovereigntynbut a governing confederation.nTherein, in these dreamy times ofnours, lies a great promise. And outridernof that promise is Son of the MorningnStar. ccn