Christopher Backley


Last Call in the City of Bridges by Salvatore Pane

Last Call in the City of Bridges
by Salvatore Pane
Braddock Avenue Books, November 2012
224 pages / $16  Buy from Braddock Avenue Books or Amazon









Remember the slog of the 2004 presidential campaign – the long months of desperate hope that we’d send Bush back to Texas and finally turn the corner? At the same time, of course, that hope was tempered by the reality of John Kerry – his awkwardness, his lack of passion, his John Kerryness. But still, it felt great to believe, even just a little: to believe that the election was about something bigger, something more important than just changing the White House china. For those of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s, it seemed like our generations (I hate the hair-splitting of Generation X, Generation Y, Millennials, Internet Generation, etc.) were dropped into a cultural void, searching for meaning in a century filled with greatness. Salvatore Pane’s debut novel, Last Call in the City of Bridges, is steeped in this feeling, in this desperate quest for generational identity. The book asks the same questions we’ve been asking ourselves for a decade or more: why is my generation here? What is here for us? How can we matter – and if we can’t, how can we at least get through this world alive?

The novel is bookended by the 2004 and 2008 elections. The false excitement and squashed hopes of Kerry. The thrill of watching our country leap forward, if only briefly, to elect Obama. More than any book I’ve read in years, this novel is grounded in a firm sense of its own place in history. In it, Pane writes of the importance of small events among uncertain times, of the longing for a larger myth – for something more to believe in:

We mailed in our absentee ballots a month earlier, and now it was nearly upon us, November 2nd, the day we dreaded, the day we dreamed about…. We attended the rallies, those nervous gatherings of students in sandals and vintage t-shirts, boys with patchy goatees and girls with hair down to their waists. We chanted his name, all the while glancing nervously from side to side, hoping this was all some elaborate joke, as if this monotone robot named Kerry was just a pretender, as if we were still waiting for a superhero of yore to swoop down and save us.


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November 30th, 2012 / 12:00 pm