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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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If A Picture Paints A Thousand Words

I have a confession to make: I’ve been thinking I should get a device. I know I’ve gone on the record for how much I loathe devices. But it’s going to become a professional liability to not understand and participate in this craze that is sweeping the nation. Drink it, dude. I don’t know. GOd help me, I was hoping to retire before I had to cross this electronic bridge but it’s all happening so fast. I wish I could have had an enhanced e-book for Food and Loathing. There could have been links to Dunkin’ Donuts, Entemann’s, and Little Debbie. THere could have been clips of people at OA meetings talking shit about themselves and pretending to be grateful. There could have been a simulated psychiatrist’s session where a girl cries and a middle aged white man in a window pane suit and saddle shoes tells her to stop crying wolf. And then there can be an app for calorie counting and weighing yourself and calibrating how much you hate yourself. And then you can link your fine ivory ass to Assbook and make friends or frenemies with other people who also hate themselves and like to post pictures of themselves at National Parks. And then you can tweet the whole motherfucking thing. Maybe I’m not ready.


66 Responses

  1. Alas, we no longer have technology; it has us — much to my chagrin as well. Whoever said 50 was the new 40 evidently didn’t experience the past 10 years — we were fine w/out “devices” or cell phones or 1001 other inventions that have complicated our lives under the guise of simplifying it.

  2. You New Yorkers are the cool-a-thons. I live in CA-land, which we all know is fantasy — or so my Aunt Mary tells me (“I’ve seen the western sunset! On TV!!”), anyway you slice it. But I digress. Or regress. Anyway, I do not yet E-Read. I am a device-a-phobe.

  3. I am most decidedly not ready. Whenever I go into a Barnes and Noble and they try and sell me a Nook, I put my fingers up in a cross configuration and hiss at them.

  4. What’s a device?

  5. it sounds like you’re ready to me.

    drink up.

    (i’ll be sure to buy the e-versions of both your books. i’m buying my e-reader as soon as glasseye’s books go to e-print.)

  6. My mother bought me a Kindle and until recently all I did on it was the anagram game that comes with it. But then I uploaded my latest manuscript via my secret Amazon email account, and, viola, the magic ensued. I saw flaws I never saw in its regular double-spaced 8 X 11form. I was grateful and pissed off all at the same time. Which should be the tagline of all devices.

  7. In the year 2042 computers reach singularity–I wonder if they will be complaining about the friggin’ meat-heads they have to deal with…or maybe they will decide we aren’t needed anymore.

    • We are the only animals on the planet dumb enough to create something that is more evolved then ourselves. I guess it wasn’t good enough being on the top of the food chain, we are inventing a challenge.

    • That’s as religious a belief I’ve heard as any.

    • Rather than express anger (and remarks like that really make me angry, but it’s nothing personal) and wind up saying something I’ll regret later, I’ll just share this link: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/mar/10/how-we-know/?pagination=false

      I will say this: if we could conceivably create machines that would actually supersede us, then of what value is writing? It’s just matter printed on top of matter. Might as well wipe your ass with it as read it.

      • From what I gathered in the link you provided, we are, individually, the ones who extract the meaning. People. Without us, of course, there is no ‘meaning’ per se. Whatever supercedes us may be only attuned to the information and not the nuances. In that case, they would be wiping their well-oiled machinery asses with whatever. And as for the matter on top of matter…it wouldn’t….matter. A less bleak thought might center around the expression of the written word and all that entails to another venue that still retains all that is near and dear to the writer. Just expressed with all the nuances, etc. ‘differently’. And I don’t have a clue what that might entail. I once read a sci-fi short story that centered around a composer. She composed a symphony, but it wasn’t from sound but light and yet it conveyed the same experience within the audience. Perhaps that’s the future of art in all its various and sundry forms. They will just be ‘different’ but no less profound.

  8. I am not sure how old most of us are, but I know that when I was in school we had to use this thing called an encyclopedia. It was a large set of leather bound books with information, pictures, and the closest that some came to porn until they got older.

    Now if I need to find something, I type it into Google and get a millions sites with information and pictures. And, I don’t have to get into the other subject and its availability.

    Is technology making us better or lazy? If a picture paints a thousand words, how many does the internet process?

  9. Ready or not, here it comes. And what a sticky mess it’s going to make all over the floor.

  10. i bought an eReader so I could beta and edit my own stuff without have to lug reams around with me in my longsuffering shoulderbag over my actually suffering shoulder.

    It’s worked pretty well so far. Though my chiropractor appears disappointed I won’t be putting his youngest through college after all.

  11. I got a Kindle because I read on some guy’s blog that it might reduce eyestrain.

    When I was younger, I used to read a lot. I’d stick my nose in a book and not take it out until later. As I got older, I found I couldn’t concentrate on reading for more than about half an hour. Then this fatigue would start to set in. So when I read the guy’s blog entry, I said to myself, why not?

    With my Kindle, I read more and I enjoy it more.

  12. Oh, go for it. Getting an e-reader doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to buying only e-books from now on. Plus, then you can give us your hilarious take on them.

  13. secret secret, I got a secret… I still have a TI 99, a phone in a suitcase, a giant dish in my backyard, a beta video player, and a giant console t.v.

    • Hopefully Google Earth can’t zero in on your coordinates. But if they do the will be coming for you. You’re dangerous, dude. Keep the tinfoil on your head. I understand that blocks the waves.

  14. I need a device, too. But of a different shape.

  15. a biblical tablet the size of a cigarette pack was recently translated by a descendant of dr. august curses. this tablet was dated to 2011 A.D. or the 3rd year of betslernezzar.

    deciphered, it reads: e-fuck. i loathe devices. where’s the cord?

  16. Technology is the Borg. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

  17. Here’s an interesting blog on the democratization of the publishing industry:

  18. In the event that I ever finish my book and an agent agrees it is brilliant and the agent convinces a publisher of same, I will probably want to have a good understanding of how all this e-book stuff works. In the meantime I’ll buy ink on paper books, probably on line since my hometown Borders is closing. But my birthday is coming so who knows?

  19. That’s what we get for thinking that we are thinking, I guess. It seems the trouble with the world is diction. My sister also hates herself for being what people call fat. Fat? Where’s the argument? When did fat people become bad people and when did scum-bag psychologists start making tons of money with a manufactured, again, by who, problem? What kind of people are those—the definers and the kind and helpful helpers of that problem that doesn’t exist. Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot, health insurance costs, and we are all in this together so you better get it together brothers and sisters or we are going to fuck your head UP! And a well paying career using your fellow man. Anyway, fuck the electricity gadgets, all the smart folks, wordy smart, in the world wouldn’t know how to make electricity it if they really needed to. And then who would be to blame? People who use lights in their house, of course! Where’d all the dang-blang electricity go to? Same old story. I’m tellin’ ya, we’ve become a Gunsmoke rerun. Same old fucking story. In the end, all is well, but everybody likes a little scary and untouchable, brings a mystery and a little fight to the whole living maze. I bet I could go through every single one of the replies to your posts that have ever been put on your site, and I love you, I keep coming back, and I can point out the Gunsmoke plot. I’ll bet you everything I have to what you have. In the mean time, what’s a window pane suit? Slick? Clean? Fashioned by someone else? A power symbol? What is it? I’ve been torturing myself with One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I will also give someone everything I have if they can explain this thing to me, I have 40 pages left, and I’m really wanting to chunk the Lit for the Grit. (If I just coined a phrase, I will sue every mother fucker that uses it without mentioning my name) so I can go on with Food and Loathing. I have a tortured book-keeper’s mind. I’ve gone on enough. Betsy, as always. Weird find.

    • Well, first off, the One Hundred Years Of Solitude thing. Chunk it, man. It’s for ca-ca. Like so many other doo-doo books that the literati or other pinky raising intellectuals have annointed as ‘brilliant’ . Pissh. A massive waste of time. Give me a nice down and dirty crime novel with some nice turn of phrasing and a balls-to-the-wall plot and I’m good. All else is dross…whatever the hell that means. I mean, really? I’d just as soon take a dump in the middle of Times Square as to read Infinite Jest, Solitude, My Navel Is Fascinating. Okay, I over did it on the scatology. But sometimes crap is just crap.

    • Ew. I liked One Years of Solitude. It’s better if you just give up on trying to keep all the brothers straight though. Trying to make to much sense of that bit will make your brain implode.

      • I agree with both of you. But the butterflies dying let that woman know some man, who’s connection I lost track of died, that was too much. Was it an attempt to explain human history, the human soul, with the story of a small town? I don’t even want to know. Some beautiful sentences, though. Gotta give it that. But maybe as the author intended, thank god that’s over.

  20. Bless me father for I have sinned.

    I received a Kindle for Christmas. I like it. I don’t like it better than books, but I like it. And it’s light so I carry it everywhere in my bag and am never without something to read. I’m looking forward to an upcoming holiday l when I will pack a pre-loaded Kindle rather than half a dozen heavy books.

    But I still feel a bit guilty. I changed the name on it to The Dark Side. Come on over…

  21. Oh it’s not so bad to have a kindle. What the hell else can I do here in the backwoods of France? Come on over, we’ll help you through it Betsy…


  22. I think your reasoning – professional – is sound and should alleviate your existential ponderings. You can get the device but still refrain from Assbook and National Parks.

    Some people consider blogging a step into the Darkness, even though your blog is exemplary (methinks). The device might be your measure of dirtiness, but for some it is nothing more than a tool.

    Forgive the bluntness. Jet lag + Lorrie Moore stories make me rough around the edges.

  23. I’m holding out for one that vibrates. It’s only a matter of time.

  24. Your device started off sounding kind of interesting to me, but then it got weird and I’m prejudiced again. But you can see I’m beginning to waffle. (190 calories) Sooner or later something’s going to break through my barrier.

    “Vibrates” might do it.

  25. You’ll love it. I was one of the last hold-outs to get cellphone and just accepted texting as a means of communicating – so I understand techno-reluctance. Full disclosure here: B&N pays my mortgage (a very little house) so I had to get with the party line. Borrowed one when I had jury duty and got hooked. Coincidently — guess what I’m reading on it right now? Forest For the Trees — really. Page 83. Even with my company discount, it was less expensive to buy it on THE DEVICE than in the store. And I had it in seconds. The immediate gratification is lovely and so is the weight of it. Nice bed-reading (simmer down there) and when you fall asleep mid-sentence (not in your book of course) you don’t lose your place. And it’s still reading after all. Go on – do it!

  26. This is the golden age, why I bought a Kindle. It’s like owning a crank up Model T or a windup telephone on a party line. Remember juke boxes? Think in 50 years how quaint it will be to have one of those clunky old e-readers. This column could be the provenance.

    I love the black and white screen savers connecting the old with the new. Steinbeck looks like he might be a relative. I love that it remembers what page I’m on in three different books.

    • “Many publishers today are still trying to focus on traditional e-books,” said Emmanuel Benoit, Executive VP of Marketing and Corporate Strategy for Jouve. But what is the next step?
      From today’s Publishing Perspectives.
      Forget 50 years, make that five minutes.

  27. Next round ‘they’ will be inventing a device that calculates the probability of the next word you will use and jot it down for you. Hey, anyone can create a book! Kind of like the transmission in my last car that anticipated driving habits and shifted up or down accordingly. Hated that thing. I strive not to be put in the box and made predictable.

    My husband is not as adverse to technological advance as I am and downloaded books onto his IPhone that no longer work. At least no one has snuck in and taken my hard copies.

    • Just for the record I have an IPad. A gift. It was great the other day when the sick child was able to listen to an audio book because there was no way in hell I’d subject anyone to a day of Disney channel.

      However, I’m not so sure I’m ready to handle a dog and pony show in a book. It makes me afraid that advertising dollars will take over the decision making when it comes to publishing books. Hmm, the author did laundry… let’s change that to she took out her box of Tide and the clothes came out sparkling white and add a link.

  28. As someone who has dropped her cell phone in wet concrete, dented a PDA beneath a slab of granite and watched my dog happily gnaw on the replacement cell phone, I consider The Device warily. I will need to sequester myself in some cushioned, non-pet hideaway to enjoy it — and my budget won’t float THAT fantasy!

    More frightening, though, are the ad campaigns that encourage families to take said Devices to the beach and on road trips to read and, more importantly, watch movies!

    Talk about not seeing the forests for the screens!

  29. See New Yorker issue Feb14 & Feb21, page 99, Comic Strip by Adrian Tomine for his views on Assbooks.

    Almost as funny as your post.


  30. For no discernible reason, my parents gave me a Kindle for Christmas, and I was like, “What the crap am I going to do with THIS?” But then I discovered you could get a cover with a light, and thus read with your ENTIRE PERSON under the covers AND not have to turn any pages and… I decided resistance was futile. It’s been a long, cold winter here in Boston. I’m not madly in love? But it’s not so bad, really.

  31. GFI (Go For It)! Really, it’s weird, but it’ll help save some trees, man.

  32. My husband bought me a nook. It sat in its box for almost a year, then I went on a trip and decided to take it along. I downloaded a couple of books, one of which was first in a series. I wanted to read the 2nd as soon as I finished the 1st, and the nook made that happen. I got sucked into Hunger Games, and the last book popped into my nook at midnight of its release day. I stayed up and read it.

    I’ll never love it as much as paper, but it does make the reading experience more immediate. I took it to Europe last fall and had an entire library to choose from while sailing up the Rhine river. Nice.

  33. Ha, ha, ha! And then you could tweet the whole motherfucking thing. I love that.

  34. I won my ereader in a contest so don’t have to feel guilty for buying it, but I feel very conflicted about using it. I hate that ebooks are putting bookstores out of business, I hate seeing people on the subway with their infernal ipads, kindles, nooks, I hate hate the idea of “enhanced” books, I hate not having a book in my hands with pages to turn. But as someone above said, it’s been a cold dreary winter, the bookstore in my city closed, and yes, I’ve bought a ton of books on it lately. Sometimes the estore has $5 deals so it encourages me to read oddball books. Also, my Sony pocket ereader is small and sturdy and good to read while I’m on the treadmill.

    • It happened to the horse and buggy. Progress. Bookstores will go away. What will be left will be specialty stores, used bookstores. Eventually they will give way to stores catering to collectors. Used books once sold at half-price will become ‘antique’ books and people will pay an arm and a leg for some hack’s paperback that you couldn’t give away fifty years before but now because its condition is ‘fine/mint’ a collector will pay dearly for the privilege of buying the damn thing. I have seen the future and it’s not us…but Kindle and its brood.

  35. In all seriousness. The Kindle and its brethren are the wave of the future. Much like when they pulled the plug on radios and came out with the transistors. Most of you probably weren’t around on that pivotal day. It was a tsunami that led the way. We are there for the book. Not since Gutenberg has the written word experienced such an evolution. In twenty years and likely much less, books on paper will be a mild curiosity. And most of us today won’t be all that nostalgic about it.

  36. I’ll worry about a Kindle or a Nook after I’m done obsessing over whether that device in the photo would stimulate hair growth because I notice my hair is thinning and there’s no app for making people see you as thin, drop dead gorgeous and forever 23, is there?

  37. Once I finally crossed that bridge and got a kindle, I realized that it’s the same thing it always was: a book. Words. Characters. Story. Just wearing a different outfit. And that made me feel a whole lot better.

    The big change I can’t wrap my head around is the move toward self-publishing becoming legitimate (which means I might have to seriously consider it):


  38. This post was hilarious. An hour later and I’m still chuckling about tweeting the whole thing. I would totally repurchase Food & Loathing in the format you describe.

  39. I have a KIndle 3. It’s awesome and affordable. I read your freakin’ book on it!

    • Sorta reminds me of Patton’s response: Rommel, you magnificent bastard…I read your BOOK! He didn’t read it on a Kindle, though.

  40. Betsy, DON’T get one–you just don’t need it. Remain a purist! Just nod and smile wanly when people rave about them, kind of like listening to your husband talk about his golf game.

  41. Device-ify! While you’re at it, buy as many vibrators as you like! Recently acquired a few retro literary-themed types myself: one shaped like a printing press, another like a miniature typewriter, and a third like a brick and mortar bookstore.

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