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    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Guest Blogger #2 – Mary S. Beach “I’m just the oily slick on a windup world with a nervous tic.”

I was on a flight from Amsterdam to Newark the other day when I noticed that every other person was reading a Kindle. Then it hit me. I am almost fifty years old and I might never have a book published. By that I mean a real book that I can hold next to my heart and then put away on a shelf. Even better, on my mother’s shelf. Something I can finish. Something I can dedicate. I have written all my life, but nothing has ever been really truly finished. I enjoy my status as a late bloomer, but now I see I may be too late for a real book.
I feel bookless. Like I felt childless at 30.
I might have an electronic book and that would be cool, and sure, I know the important thing is to join the party, the great cosmic conversation that started at the beginning of time and will continue to the very end. But I can’t help feeling like 1s and 0s did not speak the words of Levin and Benjy and Daisy and Raskalnikov. They simply can’t carry that weight.
What is that weight? Does the sharp end of our pencil protect us from the void? Is it the tons of printing press searing words into the paper – forever? Is it the knowledge that once you sign off on your manuscript there is no turning back? Is it the force of gravity itself?

43 Responses

  1. my friend just returned from italy yesterday and i asked her what she read on the flight home.

    “NOTHING! my kindle battery died five minutes into the flight and all i had was my cell phone games to occupy me.”

    stories like this will forever keep me armed with a book in my purse and a stack of glossy magazines in the passenger seat of my car.

    is it ironic that we are bemoaning the slow and mournful deaths of our most beloved hardback friends on a blog? (i’m being sincere…is it fair to drool over our blog rolls while dismissing their distant cousins, the e-readers?)

    whatever. i feel the weight you so elegantly have honored. for me, it’s the same weight that is lost between mp3 files and vinyl, between handwritten letters and emails. but more so because…because…well because i’m a writer and it’s a book.

    “I feel bookless. Like I felt childless at 30.” NICE!!

  2. I know what you mean…I’m 63 and waiting to hold my story in book form, too! I’m still fanning the flames of hope. Sometimes it gets a little frustrating when so many celebrities write books and get a book deal before they are even finished writing when there is so much undiscovered talent in the world.

  3. Not one of us knows if our written works, however they may be presented to the world, will survive in any form for any appreciable length of time after we’re dead. Homer didn’t know it. Shakespeare didn’t know it.

    Still, like most other writers, I long to see my books appear in traditional codex form. I don’t want to die.

    • I know; mine won’t.

      But why care? Might as well try to achieve immortality by preserving your exfoliated skin in a freezer bag. Nobody cares while you’re alive, the chances that they’re gonna suddenly find you fascinating after the rot sets in is slim. And even if they did, there’s no -you- to find fascinating, not anymore. You’re dead. Shakespeare was a clever fellow; he would’ve traded all the posthumous acclaim for twenty minutes with a peach-assed boy.

      Also, the important thing isn’t to join the conversation. the conversation is a bunch of self-important prats sidling toward the buffet table. Publishing a book in traditional codex form doesn’t mean squat. There’s no weight, there’s no forever, there’s no gravity. There’s just ego and bills. And maybe void. I guess I’ll give Mary the void. I don’t know what does matters, but publishing doesn’t. Publishing a book is as satisfying a spiritual event as selling a washing machine.

      • Agree. Yeah, I want to be immortal. But I don’t think the general population will give a rat’s ass the second I walk out of a room, nevermind after I kick the proverbial bucket – no matter what I publish. I’ll leave my writing that really counts for my kids. Maybe someone down the line will contemplate that I once existed, thought, dreamed and did the best I could.

      • christ, August, you need a holiday.

      • Too much? I’ll take a pill. My mother-in-law just left a new bottle.

        And I want to achieve immortality by not dying, Deb. (Who said that?) I’m too narcissistic to care about people down the line. What’s in it for -me-?

      • Let me know how that immortality thing works out. Otherwise, I’ll save you a seat at the bar. Wish I had a mother in law who left pills instead of manipulation and loathing in her wake.

      • You and me both, Deb. My mother-in-law always rearranges my kitchen cupboards. Once when she came to stay, she put everything in my pantry into these plastic bins. She loves bins.

      • Ooo, I bet we’d have some stories to share…

      • >And I want to achieve immortality by not dying

        Woody Allen

  4. I’ve had three books published. I was sixty when the first one came out. I feel like the men must have felt when the iron doors in the belly of the Titanic came crashing down and they escaped with their legs still attached. I keep hoping that after I’m dead, some of my books will live on.

  5. My first novel is agented, a miracle. My novel-in-progress is gathering a charge. I long to hold these babies in my hands and admire the lovely pages, but that might not happen. Still, I hope to be read in any format.

  6. I’ve had three books published and there’s another one on the way. I worked my ass off to get here. But if I hadn’t had made it, if I’d failed to get an agent and then a deal, nothing I could’ve told myself would have convinced me that my stuff coming out in E-book would have felt as great as walking past a woman on a park bench with her nose in my book.

  7. Exactly how soon does everyone think books will only be published in electronic format and not in paper form? It will happen some day, yes, but I think we have longer than a couple of years. How long do you think it will take?

    • I think both forms may survive, with hard-copy book publishing being a niche market for people who buy luxury goods.

    • I agree. It’s not as though the main houses have suddenly stopped printing books, it’s a gradual move towards e-books that I believe will still leave some room for printed books.

  8. My friend Helene self-published at 75 – and her book (NOT an e-book) was praised by the LA Times and she toured the country on her own book tour. She remains my inspiration for later in life success 🙂

  9. We need washing machines. We need heavy things, or we would float away. (And we would stink!) And I guess the thing about books is they are both heavy and light. You can escape, without moving an inch. And that goes for reading and writing them.
    When I read things on my phone, I am very quick to move on, just because I can. A book makes you stick with it — you’ve carried it this far, after all.

  10. I’ve been making little books my whole life—drawing and writing and pasting as a kid. I made money too–it was easy–all I needed was paper scissors and the right green crayon–oh yeah, and the desire, imagination and childishness to think making money was that easy. My mother said she needed it so I made some.

    Face it folks what we do is that kind of a gift. And it does have weight. It does.

  11. It’s all about the heart. Things get better, they get colder, chipping away at things we love and are sad to see die. I’d love to drive a solidly built old car with the suspension and advanced comforts of a new car, but I can’t have both, so I wind up with something that feels good but has no soul. You know what I’m going to miss? Little bookstores run by dedicated readers.

  12. If I never get published, I’ll be okay. If only three or four people–my sisters, close friends–read my stories, that’s fine. I don’t write to get published. I really don’t. I write because I’m always thinking about it, and when I go two or three days without writing I feel like a failure. I get nervous and very agitated. That’s why I write.

    I used to show everyone my drafts. I’d pass them around at work, email them to my best friend in L.A, my Mom, Aunt, Grandma, everybody. Praise, compliments, suggestions, criticisms, insults, just knowing my work was being read–all of that was fuel. I felt like a writer. An artist, almost. But not anymore. Those feelings have flown the coop, and I’m happy to be rid of them. Even if I don’t get read by many, published by one of the big houses, I’ll continue to write.

    Hope, however, does remain. Hope is the reason I can write the above paragraphs without getting angry, or crying, or feeling like a complete loser at the fact that I am not yet successful. Will I be okay if I don’t get published? Yes, but I hope to. I have hope that one day more than just three or four people will read my stories. I have hope that one day I won’t have to fix computers to pay my bills, and that writing will. So hope, and a love for writing, keeps me going. I know that the publishing world is in dire straits right now. According to most literary professionals, it’s almost impossible to get an agent, get read, get paid–it’s a pipe dream, right? If the answer is yes, then why are there so many books on the shelves? I know it can happen for me. I’m willing to do the work, pay my dues. So this is me trying. Please follow along if you’d like. It won’t always be about writing, or books. Sometimes I might post about movies, music, or even computers (since fixing them pays the bills). I don’t know yet. Let’s just see how it goes.

    follow me on twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/ChaseOneal

  13. I didn’t feel childless at 30 — I felt wonderfully, amazingly, luckily, dizzily childfree. Still do, 24 years later. Kids:I can’t stand their high pitched voices and their creepy little hands and I’m glad I never had to share my house with one.

    I’ve never equated writing a book to giving birth; I’ve never called my book “my baby”. And getting a book published (for the first time, at age 52) didn’t make me feel any more maternal. Books are as much a part of material culture as Faberge and chamber pots — no more, no less.

    The good thing about e-publishing is that it is doing away with the gatekepers of culture, and I think that’s a good thing. I don’t want to self-publish (I’m too lazy) but I respect others who do. It keeps the stew of civilization boiling.

  14. Such an interesting post. Very Betsy-worthy.

    It’s made me question what I’m doing. What am I trying to accomplish as a writer? Certainly this was no childhood dream – or if it was, it seemed so far out of reach for the little girl at the back of the class who practically peed herself every time the teacher called her name. I still spend all day, every day, twisting pictures of the world into place, layering the transparencies over the chaos, stringing them together like some jerky super-8 movie. The real world is that guy who comes in late and wears my pictures on his skin before he sits down and gets the hell out of the way.

    Words are just an extension of that for me. An idea slides past and I try to snag it and wrestle it onto the page. If I can, it’s a paragraph or a page or a scene or a blog post or a comment for Betsy or whatever. If not, it’s vapor. No big deal, really, because there are plenty more where that came from.

    I’m not trying to make a living as a writer, like August. I’m not making art like Tetman. I’m not balanced over the void on the tip of my pencil like Mary. I’m just twisting the kaleidoscope.

    I do understand why writers long for a real book. Real pages. Something they can see in someone’s hands on a park bench (and how cool is that?). And you’d think a photographer would care about cover art and paper and such. I don’t. For me it’s the idea. The communication. That blissful moment when the glass inside the kaleidoscope makes a recognizable something-or-other, and the knowledge that the words I’ve strung together are there, captured, so I can go back and look at them later. Exactly like a photograph.

    I write because there are some pictures I’ll never see clearly any other way.

    (That’s not to say I’m without ambition. Children love to see their macaroni art on the fridge.)

    • I write because there are some pictures I’ll never see clearly any other way.


    • That’s it! If I don’t get it down on paper, it’s vapor. I write to find out what just happened. I write to exist now, not to live forever. A book is heavy and attaches the balloon of me to the earth, or so I imagine. Just like I imagined a child would — and does (though the rest of it I could never have imagined!) Thank you for helping me understand…

  15. Had to laugh at Vivian’s remark about remaining childless…just had a similar conversation with someone this morning who looked at me aghast and said, “You’ve never had kids?” (‘you weirdo’ was left unsaid).

    Anyway, I am also a late bloomer but I won’t bemoan the fact that my work will more than likely never be printed on paper. Yet as long as I can get my message to the masses, it matters not to me in what format it reaches them. And so I write…and publish electronically.

  16. Would be nice to publish on paper, but don’t really care much one way or another (maybe this is a side effect of the walking meditations, maybe it’s an effect of having been wandering around the web since 1996, maybe it’s a native lack of ambition). Writing helps me see. And if it pleases others to read some of what I write, if it keeps them company somehow, if they enjoy a turn of phrase or laugh or appreciate an observation then that’s good enough for me.

    (Agree with Glasseye, pretty much.)

  17. It is the year 2075, all books, all words are on the computer/electric/ wave beams grid of solar universal nominator. No more paper, no more books. Someone forgot to make more than one connection to all powerful resource xcaliber. The Technician is sleepy; it’s 2 am, he needs to reset the time for the world’s power at tenspeedmega2,000withinfinitebytes. He turns the switch to off. Goodbye words, goodbye…..see The End of The World as We Know It” at http://www.elijahrising.com.

  18. For my money, the more senses you can engage, the better and more solid the experience. A book engages sight, touch (a Kindle feels the same no matter what you’re reading), and smell. Add a rocking dust jacket and an oh-so-classy cloth or leather cover, and you’ve got a gem of many facets in your hands.

  19. Once upon a time, I dreamed of doing a signing for my first book in my local independent bookstore. When that closed, I envisioned taking my roadshow anyplace which might welcome me. As even the brick-and-mortar chains began to disappear, I figured I would find my way selling copies through Amazon and the internet.

    And once most books become e-books, I guess I will sigh and force myself to welcome readers however they find me.

    It’s sad, yes, but all we can do is adapt. Or go nuts.

  20. You’re very close. Its string theory. The sharp end of the pencil ripples the water a little and the void seems less boring.

  21. Books are our children 🙂 & just wondering… Do you have children now?

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