INTERVIEWER: What part does memory play in your work?
BRIDGE: Don’t you get tired of these psychological quibbles? I mean, do you ever sometimes get embarrassed? It’s just — I’m sorry, but it’s just that I’m not as good as some of the others at the kind of phrasemaking you’re asking for, the postmortems and everything else. What I try to do is sit down and develop, and I let people like you do the memory talk. Exegesis is for suckers.
INTERVIEWER: Well, but, so, does that mean that you take nothing from the past? Consciously at least? I ask because, if that were the case, every building would be a kind of soothsaying. A prophecy. Total invention, which can’t possibly be true. Not every time.
BRIDGE: Who says that? Why not?
BRIDGE: I’m sorry, I have to stop you right there. Because you’re making what’s become a very common mistake. Somehow you’ve mixed up mere rudiments with the act of creation, which by definition is spiritual—
INTERVIEWER: What’s spiritual to you?
BRIDGE: That’s another boring question, I can’t answer it. I was saying that you’ve mixed up the spiritual and the technical on the way to your thing about memory. To say that the fact that I use, say, sheeted glass, or steel tendons, means in turn that I’ve borrowed something from the vague so-called past is to indict, say, Van Gogh for using oils.
INTERVIEWER: Not many would call that an indictment.
BRIDGE: I would. I’m sure you know that there are certain kinds of developers — lots of them — who claim to have inspired some aspect of my work, or to have pioneered some idea that I later stole and simply popularized. But — and I think it’s important that you understand this before you leave — the opposite — the precise opposite — is true. The whole idea of sequencing, for example, that intricate mathematical dance in the distances between rooftop cocktail bars, is an entire field of endeavor that several others — I’ll leave them unnamed; to count would be cruel — learned from the very neighborhood in which we sit, developed by none but myself, crowned by a little building called The Armada.
[Ed. Note: Here Mr. Bridge made a series of physical gestures which I find impossible to omit from this account. Lifting his eyes away from what had theretofore been constant, unflinching contact with mine, he turned his head and regarded the window behind his seat. After a gaze of a minute or so, maybe two — one wondered where his attention had rested: was it the light-striped smoothness of the window itself? The clouds ahead? The silhouette of his newest creation, The Turnbull, rising steadily in sparks and pulleys on the horizon beyond? — he executed a slow, balletic unfolding of both arms, in the direction of the outdoors. The close reader in me (the exegete, the sucker) couldn’t help wondering whether, by this, he meant to call to my remembrance the advantages — and dangers — of sheer height. If so, the movement was a brilliant success: Suddenly I saw, as if with new eyes, the awesome implications of the titan Bridge had built. I felt captive to the sky. There was a part of me that might never return to Earth. Briefly and ineffectually I fought a quick spasm of dizziness, and after a moment I lost my sight. The interview continued after I awoke on the ground of Bridge’s office, face refreshingly wet with water, cheek stinging after what must have been a fairly hard slap.]
INTERVIEWER: Now… where were we?
BRIDGE: Do you really want to know about memory? Do you really want to know about the spirit? I guess you really must, all that stage-fainting considered. Here: A building like this one has no past. Only roots. And by roots I don’t mean a foundation — that’s another stupid detour into the physical, forget that. I mean big, invisible, unpredictable roots that reach down into the Earth: right through old graves and lost skeletons and irrelevant artifacts. I’m talking about palimpsest destroyers. Are you understanding? Nothing to do with what’s old; quite the opposite. My idea of perfection is when those roots — this, okay?, is what I mean when I say spiritual — break through everything, beyond solids, past the past, and drink deeply from the fire at the core of the world.
BRIDGE: Are we done?
Ernest Hemingway, The Paris Review, “The Art of Fiction No. 21”