• Bridge Ladies

    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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I Saw The Movie and I Read The Book (reprise)

The New Yorker’s blog is asking famous writers what they will be reading this summer. Can you believe they forgot to ask me? What is David Remnick thinking? Okay, here’s what I’m thinking: Saul Bellow’s letters. I didn’t read Bellow until my mid-forties and I’m glad because it was a hell of a binge, and a hell of a revelation. My husband is almost finished with the letters, and has been reading out bits to me that he knows I’ll like. I can’t wait, and the book will already be broken in. I’m currently in the middle of Janet Malcolm’s The Silent Woman. I am going to read One Day by David Nicholls, see the movie and read the screenplay. I’m going to finish Savage Detectives and start Amulet by Roberto Bolano. I have a Dorothy Parker biography I want to read. And last and most heartbreaking, The Pale King by David Foster Wallace.

What’s on your summer list, bitches?

71 Responses

  1. Just this day picked up Pete Hamill’s “Tabloid City” for warm- weather reading purposes.

  2. Ali Smith’s new book, There But For The sounds funny and weird — it’s on its way right now, so I guess that’s my first summer book. After that, I ‘m going on a James Salter binge. Come to think of it, first I’m going to finish Jo Ann Beard’s In Zanesville, which is seriously funny so far. I just need to get the hammock out and myself in it to make it officially a summer book. ,Your husband sounds like a nice guy, enticing you with some of his favorite Bellow letters.

  3. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
    The Great Fires by Jack Gilbert
    Incognito by David Eagleman
    Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch
    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
    Selected Writing by Sandra Cisneros
    The Memory Chalet by Tony Judt
    The Warmth of Other Sons by Isabel Wilkerson

    All hot and bothered until Labor Day . . .

  4. right now, i just started Black Milk by elif shafak and am finishing Wet Sand by Miss Averil Dean
    i’m going to read Chronology of Water again before the summer is over (i gave it to my neighbor and already wish i would have just bought another copy to give her instead of having to wait to get it back.)
    before i buy another book, i’m going to finish Reading My Father by A. Styron, i’m more than half-way through but now it’s stuck in the middle of my stack on the nightstand. (i got side tracked by CofW, then The Kiss, and then The Source of All Things)
    i’m taking Koren Zailckas’s FURY to read at the lake (which is kinda ironic, i think)
    Not that Kind of Girl by Carlene Bauer
    Devotion by Dani Shapiro
    Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas
    and Little Gale Gumbo as soon as it comes out

    • Why don’t you just buy yourself another copy of Chronolgy now? It’s not like you missed your window. It’s definitely on the short list of books I’ll buy in multiples so I’ll always have one in the house.

  5. The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani; Writers and Their Notebook, Diana M. Raab, ed.; Delta Girls by Gayle Brandeis; Bossy Pants by Tina Fey; The Social Animal by David Brooks; The Shah by Abbas Milani.

  6. Summer? Whatever. I’m one forth of the way through “The Old Curiosity Shop.” Dickens makes me feel good. Saul Bellow? The last one I read of his was Henderson, the Rain King. The one I liked the most, I’m not a Bellow scholar, was something like “We Also Wait.” Which I liked because he yelled at his neighbors, but which also broke my heart because he was waiting for someone to tell him what to do. I probably didn’t get it, the sublime meaning, I didn’t understand what he calls being a dutiful man. That’s his problem. Or, rather, used to be his problem. Wonderful, of course, detail. In my opinion, quote me and I will prove you’re an idiot. Now I know what it was like to be Saul Bellow. Wow, thanks, Saul. You’re a genius. My point! Do writers really think they change the world? Or, do they even want to? Have I been buffaloed? (I’d love it if someone could explain that phrase to me—buffaloed.) Anyway, an apparent sealed fate. Or, not. God only knows. Kinda fun though. Betsy? I have a check for fifty bucks ready to go for anyone that can make sense of this post. I’m not joking, it’s yours. Tell me what it means, for my sake, and it’s yours. Of course, unfortunately, you will also tell me where you live. (No joke. Game. I have the money.)

  7. I’ll read Nobody Runs Forever, by Richard Stark, and The Jugger by Richard Stark, and Flashfire and Firebreak and Breakout by Richard Stark. Butcher’s Boy by Thomas Perry, and maybe his new one, too. I’ll tell my wife I’m reading Bel Canto, to get laid. I’ll read a Vince Flynn excrescence, a Lee Childs jerkoff, and a sophomoric, self-impressed Palahniuk, to establish my precise location on the anal cyst of literature. If I’m really hating myself, I’ll crack a Gaiman. I’ll smile when my son plays Harry Potter, and die a little. I’ll read the collected letters of nobody, because how am I suppose to monetize collected letters? I’ll read enough of The Help to decide it’s racist and enough of Cutting for Stone to decide it’s derivative–fifteen pages each. I’ll read a dozen YA novels called Divergent and Diluted and Deletion, trying to pinpoint what sells. I’ll fail. I’ll stand in the aisle at Borders, lost in a random novel, abandoned to the childlike wonder and the onrushing words, then the jealousy will hit and I’ll shelve the book in poetry where nobody will find it, and I’ll forget the title. I’ll read six more drafts of every project I’m working on, every time with the same advice scrawled in the margin: dumb this down. Not even scrawled, just glowing in those pink and green comment rectangles that don’t disappear no matter how many times I click ‘accept’. I’ll read a Stephanie Plum and a dozen Regency romances, to spite Betsy, to clear all the pale kingliness from the air.

    • I’m thinking Bel Canto should go to the top of the list.

      • Yep, Bel Canto needs to be at the top of his piles for sure. He needs to get laid but bad cause he keeps jerking off and as for the piles…well, he could also use an enema to clear the rest of the crap out. And ditto on the Borders comment. They got deported in my burg.

    • On the bright side, at least you still have a Borders to stand in.

    • Magnificent.

    • Whoever it is who’s giving you advice should be ashamed.

    • No Lee Childs. I thought we covered this. If you’re gonna be on my team, you have to hold my grudges for me.

    • Man, you’re mean. I guess you have the whole wide world in your hand.

      • Having re-read your rant, and I really, as of this point, don’t want to offend you, have you ever considered driving a truck. Seriously, I bet you’ll make more money, you’ll have all day to think about your plots, you might, just might, stop having such a contempt for your fellow man, whom you cannot live without, and, well, you’ll probably make more money. You’re wife will love you again. All this ugliness over art, and god only knows where that started, That would be a good book, only separates people and creates a moneyless hole. Study the masters. I guess, who knows. Fuck me. I get drunk and try to figure out how I can make people love each other. I’m a nerd. Anyway. yep!

  8. Wet Sand by Averil Dean and To Know the Road by Annie Coyle Martin. And then every RITA nominated book I can get my hands on, even the WTF ones.

    Then I thought I’d relax by tackling Karen Armstrong’s History of God.

  9. Finishing up A Gate at The Stairs- Lorrie Moore
    The Year of the Flood- Margaret Atwood
    Love & Obstacles- Aleksandar Hemon
    The Children’s Book- A.S.Byatt
    Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk- David Sedaris
    What Becomes- A.L. Kennedy
    and yes, I can’t wait to get my hands on The Pale King.
    Now that I’m thinking about it, I’d also like to squeeze in a reread of Confederacy of Dunces and Middlemarch.

    How long are typical summers again?

  10. I will finish Iphegenia in Forest Hills by Janet Malcolm and be sorry to see the end, then look for more of hers. Then Diana Athill’s Instead of a Letter: A Memoir, The New Yorker Stories by Ann Beattie, Stanley Fish’s How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One (he quotes Kenneth Koch, “One day the Nouns were clustered in the street. An Adjective walked by, with her dark beauty. The Nouns were struck, moved, changed. The next day a Verb drove up, and created the Sentence.” ) And Writers [on Writing], Collected Essays from the New York Times, and Nora Ephron’s I Remember Nothing. For a start.

  11. Saul Bellow and Paula Fox. I’m reading DESPERATE CHARACTERS now and several juvenile books & YA by P.F. She’s a weird writer but engaging. Marryin’ Saul is quite a writer but his ego is on display a lot.

  12. Just finished Penelope Mortimer’s The Pumpkin Eaters, am an inch into Bolano’s 2626, finished off Paula Fox’s Desperate Characters and will read The Widow’s Children. Half way through reading research for new novel–The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker which I laid down to devour Bowlby’s The Making and Breaking of Affectional Bonds. Want to read Jenny Erpenbeck’s Visitation and David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King. Uplift and pleasantness aren’t my thing. I’m more a Cynthia Ozick kind of reader.

  13. I just started The Spanish Doctor by Matt Cohen.

  14. But doesn’t everyone know these lists are totally fabricated? Like the question: What’s on your night table? Are you supposed to answer “a dog-eared O and Living in the Light” or “The Collected Poems of Anna Akhmatova and The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony”‘?

    The question should be: What books would you like us to think you are reading this summer?

  15. I discovered Saul Bellow in my 50s, which I’m not in anymore; so far I’ve only read The Dean’s December, but I liked it a lot.

    I’m eagerly awaiting the latest Stephanie Plum and being anxious about the film, for which the only actor who is perfect is Lula, so I can’t decide whether to go see it or not.

    I’m catching up on my Michael Innes mysteries, and waiting for the latest L.C. Tyler (the “Herring” series; the first was good, the second was awful, I’m nervous about the third but buying it new anyway); and the latest Chris Fowler (those wacky geriatric London detectives).

    For serious nonfiction reading, I’ve got The Pun Also Rises, by John Pollack.

  16. These lists frighten me. I am still a third of the way through The Alexandria Quartet and I can’t finish my Chopin biography because it’s in tough French and I don’t want him to die.

  17. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver is at the top of my list. After that, I don’t know. Time goes by fast in the summer and I do most of my reading during the long nights of late fall and early winter.

  18. 1) Getting caught up on accumulated back-issues of the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books;

    2) Bruno Schulz’s “The Street of Crocodiles and Other Stories,” which arrived in yesterday’s mail;

    3) A few various litmags recently arrived;

    4) the Lishite works I didn’t read last winter, from Lear (Patricia) through Williams (Joy);

    5) the Collected Dialogues of Plato;

    6) the Valmiki Ramayan;

    7) anything else sufficiently enticing that crosses my path and seems to need reading right away (court summonses, eviction notices, the Levin-Coburn Report, that sort of thing).

    The only item I expect to finish before the equinox is item #2.

  19. Rereading parts of selected short story anthologies for guidance in a story I’m working on. Just reread “Goodbye, my Brother,” by John Cheever from The Stories of John Cheever, “Life Expectancy” by by Holly Goddard Jones from Girl Trouble, and “The Widows” by Joyce Carol Oates from Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been: Selected Early Stories.

  20. I have a few DH Lawrence and Barbara Kingsolver books on the queue. Currently reading Lady Chatterly’s Lover.

  21. Strange. I usually hate the word bitch but coming from you it’s rather bolstering.

    Summer reading? Hopefully it won’t include my spring line up: “Say You’re One of Them,” by Uwem Akpan, “Reading My Father,” by Alexandra Styron and “To Kill a Mokckingbird,” Yes, I admit it. I’m probably the only one in this here gaggle that hasn’t read Ms. Lee’s masterpiece. Crazy, I know.

    • I agree about the “bitch.” It made me blink, but then I just laughed.

    • I read To Kill A Mockingbird for the very first time a couple of years ago. I’m a lowbrow cretin (no, seriously, like, Betsy’s list makes me itch), and I totally loved it.

      • Yeah, me too. I’m only now getting around to Lolita. (I can feel my back stiffen as soon as the words should or must come into a book recommendation.)

        Some smarty-pants told me there might be a market for erotic thrillers, so my summer reading list is mainly homework. The Silent Girl and The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen. Mesmerized by Gale Lynds. Everywhere That Mary Went and Devil’s Corner by Lisa Scottoline. The Price of Salt and The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith.

        (And thanks to my friends who mentioned my books. Check’s in the mail.)

  22. The language in Debra Marquardt’s Horizontal World keeps me awake at night, turning pages. Who knew North Dakota could have that effect?

  23. The Key – by our own Averil Dean, To Know the Road by Annie Coyle Martin – recommended by our own Downith, Galore – reviewed by our own Lisa Peet, Vince has guilted me into Heart of Darkness, Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible and Ursula Hegi’s Floating In My Mothers Palm. Little Gale Gumbo by our own Erika Marks and The Lantern when they come out.

    • If you stay awhile in the Congo and haven’t read it already King Leopold’s Ghost (non-fiction) by Adam Hochschild gives a very disturbing account of the colonial years around Conrad’s time and pre-Poisonwood Bible era. I lent my copy (to a successful author!) and it never came back.

      • Thanks for the recommendation, Catherine. I will definitely check it out.

      • Ooo, I think I’m going to have to sit down and stay awhile over at your blog. Sometimes I wish I would have lived in southern Europe vs Northern, but hey, maybe next time.

    • Deb, I’ve always wanted to be an “our own.” Thanks!

      My mother thanks you too.

  24. 1. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
    2. Easy Living (stories) by Jesus Hardwell (reread and dissection–it’s fucking brilliant)
    3. John the Revelator by Peter Murphy (reread and structural analysis)
    4. a whole lot of lit mags that are tipping off my night table.

  25. Every summer I think I’m going to read The Brothers Karamazov and Middlemarch. Every summer I fail. I’ll try again.

    David Quammen — Bloodline
    Paula McLain — The Paris Wife
    Richard Yates — Short Stories
    Jaimy Gordon — The Lord of Misrule
    Charles McLeod — American Weather
    Rosencrans Baldwin — You Lost Me There
    Jasmin Darznik — The Good Daughter
    Aimee Bender — The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

    I’ll read a few Lee Childs because that stud Jack Reacher keeps finding himself in inescapable situations, and escapes. And kicks ass.

    I’ll re-read To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a summer staple, like watermelon and burgers on the grill.

    • I’m cleaning off my desk and just found a copy of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. I forgot I bought it. While I’m reading and writing, the husband is going to be building shelves.

  26. Bellow’s letters are wonderful.

    The Brothers Karamazov
    Legend of a Suicide by David Vann and other Alaska stuff
    All Aunt Hagar’s Children–Edward P. Jones
    Pacazo–Roy Kesey
    Out of the Vinyl Deeps–Ellen Willis
    If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This–Robin Black

  27. The Paris Wife, Father of the Rain, everything on the back list that I haven’t already read by Jennifer Egan and Kate Christensen plus the later’s new one the Astral. My Hollywood to remind me why I’ll never live in L.A.

    Also want to read some Jan Austen because I never have–any suggestions on where to start there?

  28. Is the list question a trend?

    For once I can priortize a list. My daughter is having her baby tomorrow morning.

    Oh, you meant books. . .

  29. The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier, who, the night after I started reading it, I had a sex dream about. But I don’t know what he looks like so in the dream KB looked like Jonathan Franzen. Clearly I need to have cooler dreams and/or imaginary sex partners.

    If I Loved You I Would Tell You This by Robin Black

    Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

  30. Every book by Jim Thompson, starting with “The Killer Inside Me.”

  31. The Lacuna, The Gate at the Top of the Stairs (both from last summer’s list)


    A Visit from the Goon Squad

  32. Danielle Steel.

  33. I just picked up Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. I’m finishing reading Utopia by Thomas More. And I’m about halfway through the Quest for Corvo by AJA Symons. But mostly I want to spend my time wrting! Oh, also it’s winter where I am so these choices come complete with wooly socks, a thick blanket and a cup of tea, whereas I would prefer them to come with a bikini and a cocktail. Brrrrr only a few months to go!

  34. Crow Lake right now…

  35. Re-reading La Belle France by Alistair Horne. Easily the best short history of France ever written. The only substitute for being too broke to see the real thing.

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