ABOUT A MONTH AGO, Oregon author Matt Love sent me a copy of his new book Love and the Green Lady, along with a note telling me that he enjoyed my recent review of Lisa Wells' Yeah. No. Totally.
It's easy to understand why Love responded to a piece on Wells' essay collection. The two writers have quite a bit in common: Both are Ore-gon writers whose sensibilities have clearly been shaped by the region; both care deeply and angrily about environmental issues; both write essays that toggle comfortably between the personal and the political.
The Green Lady of Love and the Green Lady is Newport's Yaquina Bay Bridge, which was built in the 1930s under the New Deal—a "shining romantic jewel of Oregon socialism," as Love puts it in this collection of essays and anecdotes about the bridge. Love's affinity for the bridge is mirrored by outrage that we just don't build 'em like that anymore:
"Have you seen the proposed design for the new I-5 Columbia River bridge? Jesus. Who would ever drive a thousand miles to jump off a bridge that hideous? No one. And that's not necessarily a good thing. Perfect bridges inspire suicide. They invite you to end your life with a final act of impulsive and desperate spirit... in what was perhaps an otherwise artless life. Terrible? Perhaps not if the alternative was putting a gun to your head in a tent or hanging yourself from a sign outside a convenience store or expiring alone in a chain assisted-dying facility."
As that suicide quote suggests, Love's got some very strong opinions about bridges. And teaching (he teaches high school), and politics, and America, and rock 'n' roll. Love and the Green Lady is a rambling, imperfect, and very charming book that strings together history lessons, political irreverence, and memoir, along with photos taken by Love and his students. Love comes off now and again like an excitable uncle, rhapsodizing over the shape of a bridge—but then, without missing a beat, he'll segue into a daydream about fucking Sarah Palin from behind, or a tirade about how America is going down the shitter. In short, it's a varied, informal, and passionate look at just how much meaning one artfully designed bridge can bear.