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    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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When I Get That Feeling

I used to have a friend called Raymond. He saw me through a lot of heartache. One of his standard soliloquies was about how great love wasn’t for every day. Everyday you could reasonably expect: a cup of coffee, the newspaper, a good dump, etc. But great love, well, it was going to take its time. This is true for finding great authors and projects.

When I left one publishing house for another, my boss pulled me over and said, if you remember anything, remember this: patience. Was this the generic advice he gave all young editors trying to make their mark, or did he see the mania in my eyes? Either way, it felt like fuddy duddy advice, be cautious, belt and suspenders. Didn’t getting anywhere require daring, action, taking a leap?

What happens when months go by and you don’t see anything you like. I’ve often compared this predicament to the lowering of sexual standards in a dive bar after 2:00 a.m. This is okay for a one night stand, but can be disastrous when you take on a book that you never quite believe in, acquired in a fit desperation. This happened to me once when I was an editor, and it only had to happen once.

How do you know when it’s the real thing?

17 Responses

  1. For me, it’s the cliche – I never know. I married the one-night stand and have tortured him for twenty plus years. Later, I handed my heart to a Casanova even though I knew from the first moment he’d break me.

    Real? That coin has two sides. Could the question be when do you know if it’s safe to commit?

  2. Hi, Betsy.
    I read short story submissions for Agni magazine and can identify with this predicament. If more than enough time has passed before I come across a story or writing that seizes my attention, causes my heart to speed up, my eyes to burn with astonishment, my head to feel as if it’s made of rising dough, I start to pontificate to myself and say things like: maybe I’m being too tough, too critical, too cranky, too something that is preventing me from seeing something wonderful right here in my lap. But, I’ve come to rely on my instinct if that is what to call it. Because when that stand-out story or memoir comes along, I get a whole body sensation: a chill, a flush up my spine, a sense of heightened focus, a feeling that I don’t want to let it go.

  3. For me it’s the real thing when I can’t stop thinking about it. (In a good way, not the “Did you hear that story on the news about the mother who…?” way.)

    In “Creator” starring Peter O’Toole, they even have a mathematical formula for love, in which “A lot” plugs in nicely 🙂

  4. The check clears.

  5. You don’t know. You never get to close your eyes and say, “I know.” You have to keep them open — or, rather, keep opening them.

  6. Stop and think. The voice inside will never lie to you.

  7. My anniversary’s in four days. And knowing was the easy part.

  8. when there’s a beat to the story that throbs, gets under my skin.

  9. When it’s gone.

  10. The most vital aspect of a book is that you can’t stop reading it and the momentum runs the show from the first sentence. Readers hitting a fuzzy patch will stop, never “finding time” to finish. A book is like music in that it can’t stall.

  11. when you don’t care what anyone else thinks

  12. Bunch O objectifiers. Agents! editors! “I just didn’t fall in love with your book.” ” Although the writing is superb, the description of place unique and heart-stopping, your characters grow with that literary arc not seen since Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, the dialogue such that it is as though the reader were standing next to your characters, knowing them, smelling them, felling their heat as they interact; I wanted to touch them I was so overwhelmed with this book. And the pacing! Madre mia! Not since Moby-Dick have I seen a writer bring the reader to the denoument with such skill. To read the ending was like becoming the essence of god’s fallen angel.
    But, I just didn’t fall in love with this book. This whole agenting thing is changing (that is why I took the adjective “literary” off of my stationary). But best of luck to you and warm wishes. I am sure many other agents will feel the same about your book, They Carried Me Away, as I have. I will long remember this book as I have always remembered Death of a Salesman (although, if I remember, it’s a play?)
    PS I wish I could pass this on to another agent or editor I know, but they have all left of the Bimini Island for tans.

    Agent Snookery Bookery

  13. When you get excited about things like sitting in the doctor’s office or waiting in the shitty domestic terminal at LAX because you know it will give you an excuse to read it.

  14. At the risk of adding more generic (and really annoying) advice, it’s timing too. I FINALLY read a good book over the weekend. I just couldn’t connect or get excited about anything for the longest time – but then finally I did. It’s incredibly frustrating because there are only so many things you can do to have control over it. This is how I end up drinking too much wine or watching a ridiculous amount of reality television. Sigh.

  15. I thought maybe it was the (declining, according to my FSH level) hormones, but I’m finding it increasingly hard to fall for a book, even though I give pretty much every remotely “literary” new release a chance, download the first chapter onto my Kindle (present from my dad, if I like it I buy the print version because I like to scribble inside) or go to the writer’s webpage and read an excerpt in hopes it will be the real deal…in hopes it isn’t just another overly-hyped inside-the-writer-belt approximation of a good read. I usually know from the first few sentences if it’s a match…I almost paid $14 (or thereabouts) for the current Granta after reading Bolano’s page and a half story included therein…bought 2666 for the same price instead.

  16. When the ratio of effort to effect becomes as tangible as the prose and the deeds described

  17. I think a good book/poem/play/whatev requires said creator to rip out her soul and throw it on some paper complete with all the blood and guts spilling all over the place. Not only does it hurt like hell, but you’ve got to walk around with this raw gaping wound exposed to the elements and critics and annoying people. Then you gotta work on it for months, years, until it has a varnish that makes it charming and palatable. Who wants to do that? Especially, when you can update your Facebook status, watch another episode of True Blood, play with your mobile device, and call it a day. Let’s face it, we live in zombieland (actually, that wasn’t a bad movie).

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