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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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I Ain’t No Monkey But I Know What I Like

This is so fucked up, but I hate it when people recommend books or movies to me and say, you are really going to love this. Or, this is right up your alley, or: you have to read this, it’s so you. I may not be a mystery wrapped in an enigma, but how the hell can you possibly know what I would like or why I even read  or go to movies in the first place. Look, I’m perverse. Everyone loved Mr. Burns in seventh grade, the hip history teacher who talked about Jethro Tull in his plaid polyesters. Everyone loved ET. And Elton John and Joni Mitchell. I do not do. I don’t like something because it’s dark or mentally ill or self-hating or Jewish or calorically challenged. I have inexplicable prejudices, pet peeves, and I read with a glow in the dark ring. This weekend I read a book that three separate friends said I would love. I loathed it.

Is there something wrong with me?

75 Responses

  1. Nothing wrong with you. Maybe a glitch between how you’re perceived and who you really are. “Eat, Pray, Love” was the book I was supposed to love. I beyond hated it. Finished it but I still cringe when I hear the title. On the up side, someday someone’s gonna get you and surprise you with a good title — and you’ll crawl away because you’ve been found out.

  2. Best recommendation that seemed off base but proved insightful came from a boyfriend who was always going to do what I just did–finish a novel. Read MFK Fisher he suggested. Unlikely I thought. But I did. And I do. All the time.

  3. I hate that too.

    The worst thing is when they give me as a gift some thick novel that they think is the greatest thing ever written. For them it’s a few dollars for the book. For me, if I actually read it, it would be about a week and a half of my leisure time that I could also spend reading something else. The time I spend reading the book is more valuable than the money I might spend buying the book.

    I have no shortage of things to read that I might actually like.

  4. No, and I find it maddening and invasive. My husband and I have a long-running joke, where one of us will say: I know everything about you. This is the equivalent.

    On the other hand, it might not be different than people talking sports or sitcoms at the water cooler. Humans need to connect blah blah blah.

  5. There’s everything wrong with you except those things wrong with me. I’ve come to accept my foibles as my personality.

    ¿Having an audience to work on what’s wrong with yourself has to be helping some?

    Memphis Trace

  6. I’m probably not the best person to ask in this matter. I tend to gravitate toward the black sheep. It’s in my genetics.

  7. Well, you’re a little grumpy.

    But yes, it’s a pushy overbearing way of recommending things. How would they know, indeed.

    Even my closest dearest friends have a hard time recommending books and movies to me, and vice versa. None of us would say “you will love this!” or (horribly) “this is so YOU!” We may rave or pan, but it’s always consciously subjective, and qualified.

  8. Does it cost anything to say ‘I really liked this because…’ and trust you to make your mind up? My husband knows me as well as anyone and he wouldn’t dare buy me a book. His idea of a high treat is to give me his own credit card, log onto Amazon and say: ‘go crazy…’ I married a man who thinks you can’t have too many books.

  9. Betsy, I bet you don’t like Justin Bieber. Or Sally Fields. Or Vincent Van Gogh. And that’s O.K. You’re O.K. And I am too. I happen to like people who don’t like things. So you can be my friend. Except you may not like me at all. However, i can tell you this with complete confidence. You’ll love my book, Madame Bovary’s Daughter. Yes. You. Will.

  10. An individual in the herd. Oh yes, there’s something wrong. You really should work harder to fit into a marketing demographic. How about soccer mom? The PTO will be in touch later this week with an acceptable list. They’ll have to consult Jenny’s husband Paul first to decide your political leanings so younwon’t get that list for awhile. In the meantime sign your child up for every imaginable sport, frequent McDonald’s drive thru and tell everyone you would cook organic but your family won’t eat it and sigh a lot because you’re really busy. I personally suggest the pee wee league cheerleading squad. It’s special and the girls come away with useful social skills. And for heavens sake do not forget the Justin Bieber movie.

    • Everything you said, Deb, plus Book Club.

      You have to join the club — no, wait, you have to be asked to join — and then you have to [pretend to] read books with titles including the words “Sweet Potato,” “Shack,” and “Hot Flash” which they’re all sure you LOVED! (“Didn’t you just love it!!!!”).

      • Wouldn’t it just be easier if someone wrote Eat Pie, Pray and Love After Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy in the Shack?

    • Thank you. I’ve got my lighter in the air for the anti-anthem.

  11. “Is there something wrong with me?”

    Hard to tell from this distance, but offhand I’d have to say nothing of particular note. Hope that’s all right.

  12. I love talking up books that I enjoy. Sue me.

    It’s actually part of my day job – people ask me to make recommendations. But I have a hard to pushing fiction I didn’t care for; I can describe it, but that’s about it.

    It doesn’t hurt my feelings when someone hates a book I loved – we’re all different. And some of the most satisfying debates I’ve had were over books.

    When someone gives me a book as a gift, I try it – I’m not psychic and my tastes (while admittedly broad) can always use recalibrating. Or, for that matter, confirming.

    But I certainly don’t find it a waste of my precious reading time, even if I can’t finish the thing – I analyze why (the writing? the story? the revisionism? the freaking sparkly vampires?) and learn something.

  13. I’m not in with the in crowd. I don’t like what the in crowd likes.

  14. Yes, you and everybody. Taste! Such a cuppa tea issue. Some of my friends don’t like you blog. Imagine. But really, not liking Joni M? I didn’t much back in the day but that was because I wanted her hair. These days, I think she’s a rockin’ poet. I think I’m just… old.

  15. If there’s something wrong with you, I have the same something. I think mine goes back to when my mother used to say things like, Of course you want to spend the summer with your cousin Ethel on her farm in Hoosick Falls. She can teach you how to play the accordion. I didn’t have a choice then, so I went. I still hate cousin Ethel. I still hate Hoosick Falls. I still hate accordion music. But now I’m all grown up (on the way to the home, even) and nobody’s the boss of me. I think that’s why I gained 15 pounds when I joined Weight Watchers. Who were they to tell me what to do?

  16. You don’t really give a shit if there is something wrong with you, do you.

  17. Not so certain about the displayed degree of irritation here. Inasmuch as I could empathize that someone–a friend, a family member–dares to know your taste, for all writers, the dream I think would be for their book to become such word-of-mouth “you’re going to love it” recommendations.

  18. Of course not. You are a unique individual. My son-in-law is Jewish and at times you remind me of his sister. To quote Rafael Sabatini: “What makes life worth living is to be born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world is mad.”

  19. No. You’re a professional reader as well as a professional writer– something better be damn good as well as original in order to get your attention. And that’s just for starters.

    Most mainstream movies suck and too many “art” films are self-conscious–it bothers me to spend money to watch something that I won’t remember (or care about) a day later.

    Some of Joni Mitchell’s guitar tunings bother my ear, but one of the best opening lines I’ve ever heard in a song is “No regrets, coyote; we just come from a different set of circumstances.”

    And, keep your ring well charged so you don’t hurt/strain your eyes.

  20. I love getting book recommendations. Something about a book was loved so much that people want to share it with you. Surely there are worse things?
    The tragedy is when you hated it. I think it’s such a different place many of us are in as readers, different because we are writers, because of the sheer volume we read. I read for the writing, good writing, clear writing, literary in style but any genre.

    To have to say to someone, “Your favorite author? Yep, read it, right up my alley, but yeah, see the writing sucked”. What a horrible feeling.

    • I don’t mind getting thoughtful recommendations as long as someone can make an argument for why they like it and let me decide on my own. Anything else reminds me of the time my best friend set me up on a date and all I could say is Are you fucking kidding me? This is who you see me with? Our friendship has never been the same.

    • I don’t mind recommendations — it’s only when people suggest that anything is “up my alley,” that something inside me just automatically clenches.

  21. I think it’s sweet when people assume they know who I am. It’s their way of saying, I like you and want to give you something I’m sure will make you happy. Who cares if they’re wrong. It’s the intent, baby.

  22. Seriously, there’s a book called “How to Read a Book.”
    I bet you would really like it!

  23. I want to know the title of that book you loathed. Insanely curious. 🙂

  24. Because of the My Own Little Corner title in the previous post, I was just about to recommend a book. Not because I think you’d necessarily like it (I don’t know you and insistence from another person always makes me less interested in something) but because I love that song. If you like musical theater you may like THE HAMMERSTEINS: A MUSICAL THEATRE FAMILY, by Oscar Hammerstein

  25. No, nothing wrong w/you. I’ve never liked the Bee Gees, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Ronald Reagan or the movie “Grease.” (I loved it on Broadway when I saw it in 1976, in its original form.) And I’m not going to friend Charlie Sheen on Twitter (it’d be like watching someone go insane). I am not a fan of country music. I’m a Democrat that lives in an area so Republican that if Jesus ran as a Democrat, he’d lose.

    For those reasons I’m hesitant about going to HS reunions or telling people what I really think.

    On the other hand, to be fair, the people only want to share things with you that have given them joy. I don’t think they want to hurt you. They mean well.

    • I’ve watched the Charlie Sheen interviews and for the life of me his tics, the wild look in his eyes, and mannerisms and his choice of words, etc. kept reminding me of someone else and then it hit me…Manson…Charles Manson. I think I found the role he was meant to play…or maybe he’s subtly interviewing for the role…and all that is predicated, of course, on whether he’s still around in the next day or two.

  26. I would be really interested to know why you loathed that book–can you give us more, without saying the name of the book or the author?

  27. God forbid that someone would actually *know* you. Ew.

    And we all just want to be special snowflakes.

  28. Two Christmases ago, I was presumptuous enough to hand-pick a book for every one of my 20 co-workers. I spent hours trying to make perfect matches: a cozy mystery, a history of the Pittsburgh Penguins, even a book about the art of tole painting, for God’s sake. Only one person ever bothered to mention reading the damn thing.

    This year, I gave them each a $3 mini-bottle of liquor. Everyone was thrilled. Moral of the story: We never know anyone as well as we think we do, but they don’t care as long as liquor’s involved.

  29. I like giving friends books. Doing so presupposes that I know what they will enjoy. In fact, books are my go-to gift. As such, if a friend calls me up and says that he thinks I’ll love a book, I’ll give it a look. They could be right, they could be wrong, but a close friend who has known me for more than a decade most often steers me in the right direction.

    I don’t know. If you’re worried that your friends understand your taste, then maybe the issue isn’t with books.

    • I never mind receiving a book–it’s like getting a very long greeting card–but even my sister gets it wrong. If the goal is to buy me something I’d enjoy, that would not be fiction. It would be Michael Sandel or Gavin de Becker. Or Nigella Lawson, Anthony Bourdain, Desmond Morris, Neil deGrasse Tyson … That’s the stuff I read when no one’s looking. How could she know?

      Still, Eat, Pray, Love makes an excellent coaster next to the bed.

      • Ha to all my ranting. I took a recommendation for Nigella’s book from you and liked it! Besides, how can you not appreciate the way she unabashedly stuffs her face on the show? I can send you a matching coaster for the other side of the bed.

      • Good grief. Caught in the act of making a recommendation. Please tell me I was not obnoxious about it.

        I’m glad you liked Nigella. She has such a unique voice. My favorite parts are those in which she explains why certain recipes should not be attempted in a fragile state of mind, and kindly directs you onward, toward soups and goulash.

      • I have 2 coasters I could send as well, sent as gifts by well-meaning friends. It’s one thing not to read a recommendation, but I feel like a total ass when I don’t read gifts.

      • Oh gosh no, Glasseye! You said you were reading it and *I* asked how it was. Do you even do obnoxious???

  30. Hold on to your anger.

  31. No!! People make such random assumptions. Sometimes they might be right, but what the fuck. How about inserting “might” like “it” whatever “it” is.

    P.S. I loathe Joni Mitchell, too.

  32. Naw, there’s nothing wrong with you that the proper meds wouldn’t help…okay, I’m just kidding here. Actually, I’m intrigued to know what that book was that you loathed. Maybe I can get on the bandwagon with you since there are a lot of books others love that I loathe. But then, again, my tastes run to the low-brow. Slam-bam, action stuff with a soupcon of good writing thrown in. God Is A Bullet kinda stuff. Winter’s Bone, kinda stuff. Highbrow stuff just ain’t my bag (now that dates me).

  33. Oh will you take me as I am
    Strung out on another man
    California I’m coming home

    Joni Mitchell’s Blue Album, “California”

    I had bought the ticket and taken a plane to Spain which made me terribly homesick for California. I was living in New York at the time, with a New Yorker. I knew exactly what she meant.

    I’ve given away a ton of books and don’t recall anyone ever thanking me. Could be a lesson there. I missed E.T. when it was first released and my kids were young. Had to wait five years for the second release and a reputation it could not possibly live up to.

    No worries, you’re cool.

  34. I’m not a big music type, but Joni Mitchell would be more of an artist of my generation, I think. In that context she was producing some fine songs that have become classics. They may very well not resonate with anyone younger than mid-fifties or so. Just like Bing Crosby or even Frank Sinatra. They were huge in their day…many wouldn’t even know who the heck Bing Crosby was these days. And as for the songs he sang (other than White Christmas) I think today’s crowd would loathe his singing. It’s all just a matter of time and place.

  35. Well, people don’t think about you as much as you think about yourself. Right? Even if they say *you* would really like something you must know they’re probably just trying to reach out to you or connect or blahdy blahdy.

    But yeah, I know what you mean. Have written with food as a way into talking about politics or relationships or art and have told people the same when they’ve asked what I’m working on. Of course, inevitably, everyone loaded on a bunch of food-related book suggestions or they tried to talk to foodie to me (I so am not a foodie). They were just doing the best they could, had good intentions, etc.

    So okay.

    What’s the fuss?

    Say thanks for the suggestion and ignore it.

  36. Though I will say in the past–and even now–I don’t really like it when people make assumptions based on superficial knowledge. But I don’t like that in any sphere, reallly, because it’s reductive. In the past I sometimes got a bit worked up about it.

    What’s been recommended to me that I haven’t been remotely interested in: Eat, Pray, Love, “dark” movies (I only like those if they’re also funny or Italian, preferably both), overly poetical and cute rhymey stuff (I wrote one rhymey thing and did it mostly for the relaxed structure and play of the process and because it distracted me from some depression type stuff), viral videos of animals, the list goes on, as it will.

    An aside: I do think you’ll *adore* the new Janet Jackson book, Betsy.

  37. “You’re going to love this” usually means either: “I love this and want you to be like me,” or “The hive has been told to love this, and you must be part of the hive.”

  38. Haven’t had coffee yet. So apologies for errors, typos, though I do recommend using them as learning opportunities.

  39. It really depends. Most people who make such recommendations invariably are the people who actually have no clue what I like. But I don’t blame them, there’s something about me where whatever it is you think you know about me, it’s likely to be exactly the opposite. It’s truly odd.

    BUT.

    I do have one or two friends with whom I share a similar taste in certain areas and so when they recommend something to me because I would love it, I tend to trust them. It’s also really fun being the person to recommend something that suits only one particular friend because it demonstrates how well you know each other. But these relationships are rare, and few. And, for that reason, also special.

  40. Absolutely nothing wrong with you. I had two people come up to me during the funeral of my best friend and offer me books that would help me with the grieving process. Umm… are you serious???

  41. I absolutely loved Joni Mitchell, especially her lyrics as I thought her muse was profound. I still have all her vinyl albums from the 60s-70s (before she got “jazzy” which I didn’t like).

    As for movies: Rarely watch them and the last one I saw in a theater was Saturday Night Fever (not kidding).

    As for books: I was supposed to adore “The Lovely Bones” yet I thought it was downright horrible.

    So, there ya go, Betsy. Nothing wrong with you at all. It’s called different strokes for different folks.

  42. There isn’t anything wrong with you, but you are a publisher’s worst nightmare– an intelligent, ecclectic, motivated, buying reader whom no one can pin down in terms of taste, proclivities, or reading patterns. How do we publish for you, and more importantly– as bookstores all about us die– how do we find you?

  43. mmm….I know what you mean people are always telling me that I’ll love a book, music or movie because it’s by or about black people. No I do not what to read The Help ( God save me and other Black women from that piece of crap) or even Ralph Ellison’s novels. I would chew my arm off before I would go to a Tyler Perry movie and while I love hip-hop I’ve been know to listen a lot of stuff by white musicians too.

  44. My family vaguely knows I like to read so on the holidays, I get books as gifts. Bad books. What can you do? The library gets a bit donation of them each year. And the ones too awful for the library, go to Goodwill.

    When I was twelve, my one sister got me a Danielle Steele book. Really? Did you think I’d grow up to star in an 80’s night time soap opera? Not appropriate reading material for 12.

    The other sister got me a set of tween books on morality. It was geared to 7 to 8 year olds. Donated it immediately.

    My other sister gifts me with a new self-help book each year. She really loves self-help books. She gifts me with the books she buys for herself. When she’s done reading them, I get the for Christmas. I’m using “the Secret’ to prop open the bedroom closet door.

    🙂 What can you do? Laugh I suppose. Do these people even know me?

    My brother gets me a gift card to Home Depot. I hate home repair and decoration. I sell the card to my guy friend for a discount and use the cash to go watch discount movies at the dollar theatre. 🙂

    I wonder what I buy them that they hate?

  45. You have three friends?

  46. wrong? absolutely not! the friends/family so sure of what-is-good-for-you, probably don’t stop there: do they also tuck the wayward tag back into your shirt collar?

    when you see them as the round holes pining for a square peg, it’s actually quite entertaining…

  47. My boss kept giving me books to read–thick ones–he thought I’d love and so I had to slog through them..ugh..and then say how much I enjoyed them. The novels were actually more intellectual and literary than what I tend to enjoy reading. I have weird tastes (anyone for a book about the history of pigeons or a book about how to play the ukele?), but I recommend books if I feel they have universal appeal….won’t mention the names here because I don’t think they would be popular with this group…

  48. If you don’t like Joni Mitchell’s work then yes, there is something wrong with you.

  49. My boss, for whom I had great respect, gave me a Glen Beck paperback novel and a bag of oxidized chocolates (so old they look whitish) for Christmas 2008. Six months later he laid me off for which I was thankful. Never did thank him for the book or the tired chocolates. I have no class.

    • You showed much class. You didn’t rip him a new one. Glenn Beck? You are well out of that place. No doubt your boss is hunkered down waiting for the apocalypse as we now write this.

  50. Betty-

    Did Jethro Tull wear plaid polyester?

    love
    Jo

  51. Truth is, you may be a mystery wrapped in an inigma, I rather think so. I think all writers want to be, at least do a damn good job pretending. Way out on a twig here but maybe what pisses us the fuck off is when people think they ‘know’ us when we ourselves think we’re unknowable. Hell, do we even know ourselves?

  52. Surely it’s pointless to ask at this late date.

  53. I don’t like Glee.

  54. Netflix is the most presumptuous of them all.

  55. you have a glow in the dark ring!

    how can anything be wrong with you?

  56. Yes, something’s wrong with you; you’re an agent. As such, you must reject 99.5% of everything there is out there to read. This rejection probably works its way into even your “fun” reading. As far as Joni Mitchell, everyone’s entitled to their opinion–even if they’re wrong.

  57. It’s not a malady or if it is, I suffer the same. As a result, I have never seen The Wire or Glee because everyone tells me to watch. I’m sure I’m missing out (on The Wire, less so Glee), though as you’ve discovered, people are wrong 99.9% of the time. I try to be considerate enough to resist proselytizing in conversation about what to watch, read, listen to things I love, and as a critic, that’s not easy–I will commit my opinions to the page, though I’m doing less and less criticism these days. I will say, I still give people mix tapes, or mix CDs, or whatever I’m allowed to call them these days–does that count? Is that an implicit “you’ve-got-to-listen-to-this” sort of thing? I mean, I love getting those, and if others don’t, eh, let ’em sit around collecting dust.
    In solidarity,
    K is for Kurmudgeon and Proud of It

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