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Julie Orringer

Author of The Invisible Bridge

9+ Works 3,394 Members 169 Reviews 5 Favorited

About the Author

Julie Orringer was born in Miami, Florida on June 12, 1973. She is a graduate of Cornell University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her books include the short-story collection How to Breathe Underwater: Stories (2003) and the novel The Invisible Bridge (2010). Her stories have appeared in numerous show more publications including The Paris Review, McSweeney's, Ploughshares, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and The Best New American Voices. She received the Paris Review's Discovery Prize and two Pushcart Prizes. (Bowker Author Biography) show less

Includes the names: Juie Orringer, Julie Orringer

Works by Julie Orringer

Associated Works

Journey by Moonlight (2001) — Introduction, some editions — 1,054 copies
The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2004 (2004) — Contributor — 740 copies
The Future Dictionary of America (2004) — Contributor — 626 copies
The New Granta Book of the American Short Story (2007) — Contributor — 211 copies
New Stories from the South 2002: The Year's Best (2002) — Contributor — 31 copies


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Common Knowledge



Books about the Holocaust show us at our worse and our best. It's horrifying to read of the atrocities humans are capable of committing but it's also inspiring to read of the strength needed to survive those atrocities. What makes The The Invisible Bridge stand out for a lot of other Holocaust literature is that it's told from a point of view not often heard from; The Hungarian Jew. Hungary was an ally of Germany during World War Two but the Hungarian Jews were treated like animals and actually wished for Hitler's defeat. Sadly, when The Russians moved in and took over, it was a case of "Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss"… (more)
kevinkevbo | 134 other reviews | Jul 14, 2023 |
Wanted to like it because I was fascinated by the story of Jews in Hungary she told in The Invisible Bridge, and by the characters she conjured to tell the story. There was too much of the personal story of Varian Fry (fictitious) and that did not portray him as someone who could have gotten at least 2,000 refugees out of France which the real Varian Fry did.
CharleySweet | 6 other reviews | Jul 2, 2023 |
In 1940, Varian Fry, literary scholar and foreign policy historian, arrives in Marseille facing an impossible job: pry a handful of stateless, mostly Jewish refugees out of Vichy France and get them to safety. They belong to the intellectual and artistic cream of Europe, which poses a difficult question, whether it’s moral to save Marc Chagall or André Breton while letting nobodies die.

In any event, Vichy won’t grant exit visas; the police have informers everywhere; the American consul in Marseilles, Hugh Fullerton, won’t help; and the U.S. State Department, patently anti-Semitic, sends threatening cables to Varian.

Varian Fry has long been a hero of mine; you’ll know why if you see the small exhibit about him at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington. So I was very much looking forward to reading The Flight Portfolio, whose first hundred pages will take your breath away. You get the full flavor of Marseille, the perilous work of escape, the constant setbacks, arrests, and exposures, and how absolutely out of touch Varian’s Stateside supervisors are about the danger, the stakes, the costs, the methods required.

On the bright side, helpful people just show up at the committee office in Marseille, like Miriam Davenport and Mary Jayne Gold, whose skill, coolness under fire, judgment, and private funds keep the effort afloat. Orringer does a terrific job with these secondary characters (these two women, incidentally, are real historical figures) and how Varian learns from them to handle a job no one could have prepared him for. Together, their inventions are ingenious, their subterfuge and play-acting essential, their courage and humanity the stuff of legend.

Yet despite all that, The Flight Portfolio disappoints me. Partly that comes from the repetitive rescue process, similar to a revolving door. For instance, when Chagall refuses, at first, to heed Varian’s warnings that he’s in danger, there’s Walter Benjamin, the eminent philosopher, to consider; and after him, Walter Mehring, the poet and satirist of the Nazi regime.

Each person’s case differs, and the traps and obstacles vary too. Yet, when one refugee makes it through the door (or not), another steps up. Despite the myriad complications and tension that results, it never spirals upward. That’s the nature of the story.

Perhaps to add context — personal and political — Orringer invents Elliott Grant, a former lover from Varian’s Harvard days, and ties him to the escape narrative. (Varian is bisexual; his wife, Eileen, remains an off-stage presence.) Grant doesn’t appeal to me; he seems like a golden boy too conscious of his aura, and a snob to boot.

He’s there to teach Varian the symbolic link between saving hunted refugees and being hunted oneself as a homosexual, but that doesn’t click into place until the last hundred pages. During the huge chunk in the middle, Grant’s presence almost always leads me to ask why I’m reading about him when the clock is running out on the great intellectuals of Europe. The revolving door gains no tension, and in fact slows down.

Orringer wishes to argue that Varian’s devotion to the cause results partly from his sexual identification. Fair enough; but if so, must this home truth elude him for so long? I’m particularly puzzled because he readily grasps a different moral parallel, regarding a shameful incident from his past, which Orringer introduces as though it’s crucial, yet makes little use of it.

I could have read more about that. I’d have also liked to hear more about Miriam Davenport, Mary Jayne Gold, and Vice-Consul Harry Bingham, who disobeys his boss to aid Varian, and about the others who do much of the clandestine work.

It’s a daunting task, biographical fiction — what do you include, omit, embellish, or invent? Orringer pours her heart out for The Flight Portfolio, and I admire her imagination and gift for putting it on the page. All the same, for me, this novel remains earthbound.
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Novelhistorian | 6 other reviews | Jan 29, 2023 |
The book is a collection of short stories by Julie Orringer. I took a chance on a new author and I loved her work. The two that I really like are "When She is Old and I Am Famous" and "Note to Sixth-Grade Self." Along with "The Isabel Fish" and "The Smoothest Way Is Full of Stones," this book is the perfect sample of lives of people you probably know or meet in the future.
ennuiprayer | 22 other reviews | Jan 14, 2022 |



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