Bridgeby Doug Marlette
From Pulitzer Prize winner Doug Marlette comes the captivating story of Pick Cantrell, a successful newspaper cartoonist whose career has hit the skids. In the grip of a midlife meltdown, Pick returns with his wife and son to a small North Carolina town, where he confronts the ghosts of his past in the form of the family matriarch and his boyhood nemesis, Mama Lucy… See more details below
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From Pulitzer Prize winner Doug Marlette comes the captivating story of Pick Cantrell, a successful newspaper cartoonist whose career has hit the skids. In the grip of a midlife meltdown, Pick returns with his wife and son to a small North Carolina town, where he confronts the ghosts of his past in the form of the family matriarch and his boyhood nemesis, Mama Lucy. What follows is an extraordinary story within a story, as Pick uncovers startling truths about himself and about the role his grandmother played in the tragic General Textile Strike Of 1934
A novel about family, love, and forgiveness, The Bridge explores how much we ever really know about others, and most important, about ourselves.
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A Gift for Pissing People Off
The cartoon showed a close-up of the pope wearing a button emblazoned with the words "No Women Priests." An arrow pointed from the inscription "Upon This Rock I Will Build My Church" to his forehead. Once I hit upon the idea, I drew it up quickly, faxed a copy to the Long Island office, sent the original to production by messenger, and forgot about it until it ran the next day in both the city and island editions of the Sun, as all my cartoons did. I knew it was a decent lick not especially outrageous by my lights, but effective. After two decades drawing political cartoons it was pretty much second nature to me, and I could usually feel how they were going to land. And though I knew I'd drawn cartoons with more raw voltage, more reader irritation potential per square inch, I felt pretty good about this one.
It was a Pick Cantrell cartoon all right. It said what I wanted to say and nobody else would say it quite that way. I thought it would set off some tremors and rearrange the landscape a bit. Was it good for me? That's the only question any artist can ask himself about his work. The earth moved all right. But I didn't anticipate all the aftershocks.
As a political cartoonist, I have a gift for pissing people off. I receive hate mail on a regular basis, and sometimes death threats. The raw, visceral quality in my work comes naturally to me and has always surprised me. Sometimes it feels as if I'm merely a conduit, channeling somebody else's anger and attitude. My talent is like a pit bull on a verylong leash, and each day when I take it out for a stroll I hold on for dear life.
In fact, there has always been something "non sequitur" about my drawings, as if their edge and meanness do not follow logically from me and my personality. "You don't look like your drawings," readers often comment upon first meeting me. "I always pictured you as short, dark, and bearded." My work seems angry, anarchistic, dangerous. But "sweet" was the word I most often heard used to describe me personally. On the surface I seem mild-mannered and easygoing. Physically, I am lanky, standing six-feet, two inches, blond, and blue-eyed, with the countenance of a child. Even now, as the crow's-feet impinge, and my hairline recedes, and my chins multiply, I appear open-faced, and harmless, like some Sunbelt Rotarian. I feel like an assassin. "Man, that was a mean cartoon," say readers. "Thank you," I reply. "You're just saying that."
Had I not come of age in the tumultuous sixties I probably would have wound up drawing a comic strip about cats. But the temper of those times set off something in me that sought expression in political cartoons. Bad times for the Republic are great times for satire.
I went to college on a football scholarship at a time when campuses across the nation were in upheaval over the war in Vietnam. Even a sleepy college town like Tallahassee was ablaze with insurrection when I arrived my freshman year at Florida State. Mass demonstrations, ROTC building takeovers, and bomb threats were nearly daily occurrences at the "Berkeley of the South." You could not pass through the student union without being accosted, harangued, and leafleted by partisans from SDS to Campus Crusade for Christ. After the dullness of my hometown, the volatility of campus life was thrilling, even more bracing than the drills and calisthenics I endured at afternoon practice.
Freshman year brought two catastrophic personal blows that would change my life in ways I had never dreamed. First, my mother died, just before my eighteenth birthday. Not long after, I injured my knee badly during a game. I would never be able to play football again. Whether or not these two events were connected I'll never know, but in some perverse way, they seemed serendipitous. My mother's death fueled my rage. And with the knee injury I lost my identity as an athlete, honed over the previous four years. I kept my scholarship, but with neither my mother nor football to anchor me I was bereft and directionless and immediately began looking beyond the classroom for an outlet for my numerous frustrations. Art became a way to hold on to the woman who had first encouraged my talents. I signed up for courses in still life and figure drawing and I soon started doodling caricatures of campus celebrities and prominent politicians in the margins of my notebooks and sketchpads. After a friend showed my satirical sketches to the editor of the student newspaper, the Seminole, I became the political cartoonist for the antiwar campus daily. I had found a home.
The newsroom, chock-full of bright, funny student radicals, was combustible. My work exploded. I drew three cartoons a week for the rest of my college days, and made a name for myself in the arena of opinion and ideas in a way my football exploits never had afforded me. My cartoons lampooned everyone from state legislators to the president of the university to the president of the United States. When Disney announced plans to build Disney World in the middle of Florida's orange groves, I drew a cartoon showing a Mickey Mouse in tourist getup asking impoverished migrant workers, "Which way to the Magic Kingdom?" It caught the attention of editors from the St. Petersburg and Miami newspapers, both of whom reprinted it and expressed interest in hiring me after graduation. I was on my way.
Six months out of college, after being lucky enough to draw a high number in the first draft lottery, thus obviating my need to choose between jail and Canada, and after a brief stint working night paste-up at...The Bridge. Copyright © by Doug Marlette. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Meet the Author
Doug Marlette is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and son. The Bridge is his first novel.
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