J.G. Keely's Reviews > An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
84023
's review
Nov 29, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, short-story, reviewed, america, favorites
Read in November, 2007

In Asia, aphorism is a high art; there, the greatest of poems may be said in one breath. In the West, our greatest poems come in books numbered twelve, and only the greatest of men can remember the length of them.

However, we still maintain our aphorists, though often consider them as comical wits, would do well to remember the skill of indicating truth is with them. There is the poet, Nietzsche, who is also a philosopher and who summed up the goal of the aphorist well: "It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what everyone else says in a whole book — what everyone else does not say in a whole book."

There is the politician, Disraeli, who found that ruling men meant understanding a plural and remarkable simplicity. There is the self-concerned wit Wilde, who told us that genius lies in misunderstanding and is so widely and unknowingly quoted that it is a cliche.

Speak what you will of Twain, but Bierce is America's entrant into the minute art. For his part, Vonnegut considered 'The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge' to be the single greatest short story of all Americans, and suggested anyone who hadn't read it was a 'twerp'.

The man who copies the Psalms onto a grain of rice has condensed space, but the author who places the depth of a novel into a short story has condensed meaning. The utterly deliberate and unfettered Owl Creek is a definitively superior work, for the same reason that the man who strikes the bull's eye with his arrow by chance is never the equal to the one that may do so at his leisure.

There is also an old French film which makes an excellent adaptation of this work, and which was once featured on the Twilight Zone, if that lends any notion of its quality.
42 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

02/03/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by P (new) - rated it 3 stars

P I tried to read and appreciate what you were trying to say. I really did. In the end, I realized it was simply drivel.
Maybe you should have followed your own advice and 'condensed' it, into a sentence, or two...


J.G. Keely P. said: "Maybe you should have followed your own advice and 'condensed' it, into a sentence, or two..."

That wasn't my advice--I didn't suggest that a condensed work was better than a long one, they are simply two different approaches. Just because you have misconstrued what I wrote does not make it 'drivel', and if one-sentence reviews are more your speed, then have at, because Goodreads is full of them.


message 3: by P (new) - rated it 3 stars

P I won't stoop to (trying to) debate you, but see if you can follow along here:

drivel: childish, silly, or meaningless talk or thinking; nonsense

"...we still maintain our aphorists, though often consider them as comical wits, would do well to remember the skill of indicating truth is with them."
HUH...???

"Clemens considered 'The Occurance (sic) at Owl Creek Bridge' to be the single greatest short story of all Americans."
Any EVIDENCE to support this spurious claim...? A SOURCE, with a LINK citing M. T. stating this...? ANYTHING...???

Virtually every sentence is buffoonery. 'Drivel' was being nice; doggerel is more accurate.

But I'm done w/you; you're not worth any additional effort.


message 4: by J.G. Keely (last edited Oct 09, 2015 11:23AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.G. Keely P. said: "I won't stoop to (trying to) debate you"

But you've already stooped much lower than that by starting off with bland, unsupported claims and insults. At this point, debate would be an elevation.

"HUH...???"

If you're having trouble parsing a sentence, just go phrase by phrase:
"we still maintain our aphorists (the West has its share), though often consider them as comical wits (usually, we associate aphosirm with humor), would do well to remember the skill of indicating truth is with them (aphorism can also be used for more serious purposes)"

"Occurance (sic)"

Thanks for the correction.

Any EVIDENCE to support this spurious claim...?"

Ah, all the yelling in caps--what's with all the rage? Is it really just that someone else had the temerity to make an error on the internet? Does that really justify this kind of response?

On further inspection, I seem to have confused a Vonnegut quote for Twain--not sure how it happened, and thanks again for pointing it out. I'll have to make a correction. Still not sure what made all the childish anger and insults necessary, but that's the internet for you.

"'Drivel' was being nice; doggerel is more accurate."

Trading one schoolyard insult for another is not more 'accurate'--it's just more of the same.

"I'm done w/you; you're not worth any additional effort."

Glad to hear it--though of course, what you're really saying is that your own words and claims aren't worth the trouble of defending--that you prefer to rush in with a lot of angry capslock and insults and then run off to avoid having to put up any sort of reasonable defense.


message 5: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Sigh...having been a target of nonsensical seemingly personal rage; I feel for you J.G. Keeley. No matter; you're review is excellent and I found it to be both enjoyable and helpful. From the outside looking in, it is incredibly obvious where the 'drivel' is coming from (hint: it's not you). Thanks for the great review. Cheers!


J.G. Keely Jennifer said: "having been a target of nonsensical seemingly personal rage; I feel for you"

Yeah, it's not something you can take personally, because it so clearly comes from a place of insecurity--it's like when someone storms into a coffee shop already whining and yelling, where it's obvious that they're bringing in their own baggage, and there's rarely much you can do to improve the situation at that point.

Anyway, glad to hear that you got something out of the review.


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Well, I liked your review, FWIW. :) I just read this story last week (or reread it, more likely, but my memories of the story were all mixed up with the old film). At any rate, I was really stunned by the artistry that went into this story. I need to go see what else Bierce wrote, since the only other work of his that I'm familiar with is The Devil's Dictionary:.


J.G. Keely Tadiana ✩ Night Owl☽ said: "I was really stunned by the artistry that went into this story. I need to go see what else Bierce wrote"

Oh, he was fairly prolific, writing horror stories as well as stories about everyday life, and about the American Civil War. Depends what interests you. All his stories are freely available to read online, as well.


back to top