Pearl S. Buck | Critical Review by Elizabeth Gray Vining

This literature criticism consists of approximately 3 pages of analysis & critique of Pearl S. Buck.
This section contains 726 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Elizabeth Gray Vining

Critical Review by Elizabeth Gray Vining

SOURCE: "Encounter With Grief," in New York Times Book Review, April 15, 1962, pp. 18-20.

In the following review, Vining discusses the different strands that weave together to create Buck's A Bridge for Passing.

This lovely book[, A Bridge for Passing,] is woven of three distinct strands: the making of a moving picture in Japan, an encounter with grief, and the gradually revealed portrait of a man of heart, vision and integrity. Each strand is separate, yet from the weaving there emerges a firm fabric with a pattern of the whole.

The unnamed "he" of the book, the man of the portrait, died while his wife was in Japan at work on the filming of her novel, The Big Wave. After an interlude at home Pearl Buck returned to Japan to finish the picture and there, in that land of beauty and disaster, to assimilate her sorrow and to find a bridge over which to pass back again to life.

The Japan that we see in the book is the authentic Japan of today, with people whom one knows as real, not the paper dolls and caricatures of so many books about that currently much visited and much be-written country. They are people of all kinds: the movie magnate, the diplomat's wife, the actor, the writer, the simple folk of the little fishing village in the southern island of Kyushu. All of them are experiencing the conflict between the old and the new in Japan today.

Miss Buck, who had not visited the country for twenty-five years, is alive to the changes. Not all of them are pleasing. The brown permanent curls that have replaced "the smooth straight black hair which was once the glory of the Japanese woman," the "bold looks, frank speech and frankly sexual approach to any available man" which have succeeded the modest downcast face, repelled her, but as she came to know better the bevies of pretty girls in the offices she decided that the modern Japanese woman, though she had lost her "ancient sadness," was at least "vivacious and delightful." Her special friend, the mature woman executive, she found "cosmopolitan and sophisticated in the true sense of the word … One could never mistake her for any but a Japanese and yet this national saturation of birth and education was only the medium through which she communicated universal experience, and with wisdom and charm."

The movie, which involved a live volcano and a tidal wave, was a story of human hope and courage in the midst of natural disasters. An American film company was making it in Japan with a Japanese firm as co-producer. People who work in the theatre, comments Miss Buck, are "a group apart by temperament, whatever their race, color or nationality." There is humor as well as drama in the account of the interplay of personalities, of the casting, of the filming of the picture as they found first the volcano and then, moving south, the perfect fishing village; absorbing interest in all the details of actors and villagers, in the glorious beauty of the scene, excitement in the final trip to the volcano and a near-shipwreck.

Woven in and out is the moving experience of the woman who after a rarely happy marriage of twenty-five years must meet sorrow and learn to live with it. After the days of intense activity on location came the lonely evenings walking the Ginza or tramping the seashore, spending long healing hours in the embrace of a hollow rock looking out to sea. It was a life "lived on two separate levels, one by day, the other by night; one upon earth, the other in search of habitation not made with hands."

During the hours of reflection, of longing, of seeking for a communication that cannot be found, memories return of the man for whom she mourns, and bit by bit, a flash here and there, the portrait emerges, clear and admirable. All who know the aching loss of a beloved person can read here their own story, can walk again the path of loneliness. Here, once again, is the recognition of inexorability, of acceptance—in Wordsworth's phrase of the burden of the mystery. "Science and religion," she concludes, "religion and science, they are two sides of the same glass, through which we see darkly until the two focusing together, reveal the truth."

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This section contains 726 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Elizabeth Gray Vining
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