• Bridge Ladies

    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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Long May You Run

Did you download the new Franzen?

The night I saw The Planet of the Apes, something happened that would forever change my life. It was the birth of my youngest sister, Gail. Far more beautiful and talented than I, which is saying something given my abundance of talent and beauty, she arrived a blue-eyed, blond- haired, dimpled-faced darling who would bring much joy into our lives.  But back then, her arrival meant only one thing to me, the relinquishment of my place as the beloved youngest and daddy’s girl. And somehow this tragedy was fused with the movie and its charred landscape peopled by hirsute beings with major league opposables, which would eventually reveal itself to be New York City and our beloved planet earth, though I didn’t understand that then the same way I didn’t get that it was the Nazis who had to go an cock up everything in Sound of Music.

What does this have to do with publishing. This: last week’s discussion of ebooks has really gotten under my skin. Even our beloved August chimed in on behalf of the device. Really, dude? And you think you know a person you know nothing about. Ha. I guess all I’m saying is when it comes time for the opposables to take over, the Kindles and Finger Fucks are going to litter the ground like so many shells. When the landscape is a torch and a bit of subway tile, when shirtless men ride bareback, when Barnes and Noble sells furs and pelts and Whole Foods bison and deer — this will be a time when you’re wanting paper and glue. I know I risk sounding like I live in Ludville, and I know the times are a changin’ but I want to die with you Wendy on the streets tonight  in an everlasting kiss.

Where did I leave my charger? Crap!

26 Responses

  1. So either you didn’t click the link or you think I feel a genuine fondness for styrene ethylene copolymer vaginas.

  2. In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream. At night we ride through mansions of glorious books. I, too, prefer the bound codex, but that was what I was raised with: the book that I could dive my mind into wherever there was sufficient ambient light.

    We have to live in the time we’re in. We have dazzling new tools providing and manipulating information in ways that will remain unsettling for at least some little while to come. I hope books–the old-fashioned bound codices–will be with us always, and with our civilization for a long time to come. I fear for the future, for all that could be lost through entropic digital decay, or even worse, through civilizational collapse–but there’s little I can do for that beyond being one of millions (I hope) who will always acquire, cherish and keep libraries of physical books that can be enjoyed now and handed down to coming generations.

  3. Whole Foods does sell deer and bison.

    I almost left that Neil song on your birthday but didn’t want to insult your sound of music heart. I always thought the line was “your cool heart shining in the sun” and that Neil was singing to me since he was one of my first concerts. When I found out it was a frigging car and the heart was chrome, my disillusionment with the sixties spun out of control.

    (oh sorry, dontlike cussing, fucking car)

  4. I lived in Florida through a hurricane season where we were without power for six days. Everything that needed chargers ran out of juice at some point and became nothing more than a pile of useless crap. I did have plenty of books to pass the time. Today, I have a junk drawer with a plethora of old cell phones, dead digital cameras, and more spent batteries than should be legal. I really don’t want to start buying e-readers that will no doubt end up in that pile.

    I figure at some point I’ll have enough obsolete crap in my junk drawer to erect a modern art statue on my front lawn. I’ll call it “Ode to Technology”

    Books will never run out of batteries—there’s your glimmer of sunshine, Betsy. 😉

  5. For lord’s sake one of my goals in life is to have nice built in bookshelves. I’m sorry, this is a goal I’m just not willing to give up. . .

    • I’ve always wanted a classic old library with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a sliding ladder. It’s all part of my plan. I’m not giving up on it either.

  6. Yes, every broken gadget is one more thing for the everything drawer in kitchen. Yes, real books are better. E-books shouldn’t be the whole shebang.

    But, they are not the scariest thing in publishing land.

  7. I just started writing the sequel to A Canticle for Liebowitz.

    The Slips have fallen from the sky again. They rain down on us, rectangles with dancing black worms. We catch the Slips, for each one is a holy message from The Hallowed One. We put them in woven bags and tie them tightly so none can escape. This morning we carried five bags to the foot of The Hallowed One, for Shuba believes that all will be revealed to US only when the Slips stop falling. She is wrong.

    I am of the Tribe of Us. My name is DuBois and I am of the woods that are no more. I am head of the US. The US live in a world we do not understand. We only know that their was once a man named Lieberwitz who left to US a magic stone.

    He is known to have come from where the sun rises and he left heading to where the sun goes down. To US he is a god. The Slips are his talisman. As head of the Us, it is my duty to go where Liebowitz came from and then go where he went. In the morning I leave as the sun moves from the sandy shelter. I will carry one Slip with me. I do not know what the black worms means. I held it out to all of the US last night; all looked at it; “Marco Polo.”

    I leave, walking along a path littered with pieces of things that serve Us no purpose. Silver shiny things, red and green snake things, square and rectangle things that reflect my visage. Is this what I look like?
    Gray, no hair, huge eyes? Let me just tell you that I have been chosen for this journey because of my eyes.
    I can see to the end the world. I can see where, if I walk straight, I will fall off the edge and finally, finally, know where Leibowitz came from.

    I say my prayer as I walk the path; may the slips continue to fall upon forever, for in time I will know what the black worms mean. I carry the pieces of wood with pink nubs and slat points. Soon, soon, I will learn how to use these things left to us.

  8. i have to believe in the book and i can’t say why, really, just that it’s simpler. why the fuck can’t something in my mechanized life be simpler?

    in truth, i’m starting to feel like an autobot. i’m wondering if i can shear out a bone in forearm and install a series of plugs for all the devices i have. and a button to whizz/wind the cords.

  9. I’ve bookmarked this post so I can re-read it whenever I’m overwhelmed with e-book misery…..thanks…

  10. I mentioned the ebook post to my husband and said something to the effect of ‘how will I flick the fucking pages and drive you insane if I’m using an e-reader?’

    He nicely reminded me that flicking the pages of books isn’t my only annoying habit.

  11. It may just be that the only people who still chime in on the debate are those ebookvangelists, because they’re the only ones who love to talk about it. I know there are a lot of us who still only want real books but I’m kind of resigned to whatever will be will be. In my perfect world ebooks would die a terrible ugly death and we would all burn ereaders while dancing around in our underwear chanting. But I had to stop getting so riled up over the debate because I don’t want to get an ulcer.

    Hence my stance of not caring as long as I can still be an author. I don’t even want to think anymore about the fact that ebooks might actually be the end of literature.

  12. There’s always an exception to the rule. The Power. Those >900k pre-ordered copies are going to be cluttering landfills and neighborhood library sales for years to come.

  13. Just an observation: I’ve noticed that the people most excited about e-books and electronic reading devices are people who don’t normally buy or read books! I’ve encountered so many people who are downloading and buying ebooks like they used to download music to their MP3 players. I rarely see people actually reading their ebooks though. Makes me wonder if they actually finish the books they download or even ever get around to starting them at all. It seems a bit of pretense going on…as in: oh, I downloaded that book and that book and that book, and that one too! As if they are getting the same respect for downloading a book as someone who has actually read the book.

    Kinda bizarre. I’d LOVE to see the stats on how many pages actually get read.

    Again, just my 2 cents. I haven’t got an e-reader of any kind yet, but I probably will one day. I’ll always love my paper books though. I hoard them much like I hoard alpaca/silk blend yarns, really awesome olive oils and certain MAC lipsticks.

  14. this will not appear on cable news, or any on tv!!!- pass it on

    Culminating a years-long lobbying campaign organized by the Association of American Publishers, President Obama this week signed the Speech Act, a law that prohibits federal courts from recognizing or enforcing foreign libel judgments in the U.S. that do not pass First Amendment muster. The law seeks to put an end to a practice known as “libel tourism,” which allows U.S. authors to be sued in foreign courts with more “plaintiff-friendly foreign libel laws,” such as the U.K. The result of libel tourism is to effectively suppress speech protected by the First Amendment.
    from PW

  15. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Mr. Thomas would have been standing at your side at the White Horse Tavern while he drank his fill, knowing it would be the death of him. He drank it anyway.

  16. Questions.

    Since ebooks remove the major costs of publishing (printing and distribution), leaving only the cost of editing, cover art, and whatever marketing they expend, might publishers be more inclusive of unknown authors in an ebook world?

    Is there not a financial advantage from ebooks for authors since they cannot be passed from reader to reader and Amazon and others cannot sell used books for which the author receives no financial gain.

    Trivia: Steig Larson is the first author to pass one million ebook downloads.

    • 1) You mean, will publishers be willing to invest too little in books they aren’t interested in promoting? Probably. That’s already the business model, to publish too many books for too little.

      I can certainly envision a publisher thinking, ‘Hey, we’re saving money on printing, let’s buy a *hundred* of these e-only books for $500 advances. Whee! Now let’s put them on an Amazon. Yay! Now watch while nobody buys them. Hurrah!’

      2) No. I don’t know why, but no.

  17. Another question:

    Might publishing become ipsative and only those books with sufficient critical acclaim and commercial success as ebook downloads earn the right to be published in permanent format.?

  18. First, I’ll admit it right up front: I owned a Kindle for all of about three months this past year. It sat on the floor of my apartment, unopened, for a good two weeks before I finally decided to charge it up and see what it was all about. A co-worker had been gushing about how he’d bought his wife a Kindle for Christmas and that he’d been co-opting the device to such an extent that he up and bought one for himself. “It’s awesome,” he told me. “And there are so many books you can download for free; I don’t think I’ll be buying a new book for a while.” About eight months on now and I believe he has yet to purchase a new book.

    Despite the fact that I’d found about fifty things wrong with my co-worker’s comments, I got caught up in his excitement and decided to take the Kindle plunge, ride the New Publishing Wave. And I ended up buying and reading a couple of books on the device (one of which was “Columbine” — thank you, Betsy).

    But the Kindle failed to win me over. I didn’t care that I could potentially hold an entire library-full of books in the palm of my hand, nor was the novelty of instantly purchasing and downloading just about any book that I could think of off the top of my head much of a draw. We all know and understand the wonder of books — actual physical books; I fall asleep with one by my side every night (usually having lost my page in the process). And we all know what it’s like to lose ourselves in a book that has so grabbed our attention that we ignore: our hunger, our partners, the phone, the need to get up and take a leak.

    I ended up selling the Kindle to an eager buyer after placing an ad on Craigslist. The guy I sold it to said that one of the main reasons he wanted an e-reader — a reason I’ve heard others use as well — was that he was so darn tired of lugging around heavy books. I smiled and told him that I understood even as I fought off the urge to tell him, “Just fucking suck it up, Nancy.” Instead, I reflected on fond memories of “lugging around” the fifth, sixth and seventh books in the “Harry Potter” series on my many train rides back and forth to work, and how I was looking forward to lugging around the box-load of books I had recently purchased from Powells.com.

    I’m not suggesting that e-readers aren’t without purpose. (For example, I have a friend who’s a literary agent and has a Kindle on which he reads manuscripts.) And I’d rather people purchase and read books from a Kindle than not purchase and read them at all.

    But me, I’ll take my books in paper format, thank you very much. So just fucking suck it up, Nancy.

  19. I love my paper books. I love to read them, the tactile sensation of holding them in my hands, turning the pages. My bookshelves are filled to overflowing. I rejoice in the reading of them. I love each and every one of them. And yet, I fear this format will in time go the way of the candle that gave way to the kerosene lamp that gave way to the gas lamp that gave way to the electric bulb. The way the horse and buggy gave way to the automobile. Progress has a way of moving forward and displacing that which came before. How many of us still take up pen and paper and write letters and mail them away with any frequency? I can’t remember when the last time I did that, except for some special reason: a note of condolence to a friend’s widow. I send emails. My creative writing is done exclusively on a computer but I dream of being published–in a hardbound book. My generation grew up with paper books. I prefer them. But the children growing up now? They will never have known a day when there were no cell phones or computers or ebooks or whatever other devices come along. That is their world. Not mine. But I understand how this progress will inevitably displace physical books. And Canticle for Leibowitz notwithstanding or Planet of the Apes happening, this is the world of tomorrow. Maybe if all the apocalyptic fears come to pass some genius will one day crawl from the next antediluvian morass and reinvent writing and then eventually the printed book all over again. But that far future, whether it be The Road, or Against the Fall of Night, or 2001, A Space Odyssey is beyond my ken or care. In the meantime, I’ll read my paper books until they pry it from my…

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