• 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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As I Walk Along I Wonder WHat Went Wrong

I call them orphans. Books you wanted, bought, and then remained unread. Migrated from the bed table to the floor where it gathers the great dust bowls of the prairies. The spine sneers at you, winks at you, wonders why you abandoned him. And you have no good answer. You become the guy who fucks you and never calls back. Why? Why?

That book, for me, on this vacation, was Not That You Asked by Steve Almond. Its bright red spine is like a gash. I bought it a writer’s conference a few years ago because I heard him read and thought he was hilarious.  I even love the cover — another part of the great mystery why I orphaned it.

I’m reading it now and loving it. Laughing out loud. It’s all about voice and the particulars of an unquiet mind. What book have you orphaned and why? Why?

38 Responses

  1. I orphan books all the time. There’s not enough time in my life for books that don’t make the cut. Most recent addition to the scrap heap: I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah’s Witness Upbringing by Kyria Abrahams. She tricked me. The first couple of chapters had such promise, they were so funny. But then, well, eh. And on the floor next to the bed it goes.

    I once heard in an interview that Malcom Gladwell abandons perfectly good books when he’s not sure the author has the chops to keep it up until the end. If he’s worried the book will disappoint in the last couple of chapters, even if he’s loving it, he will drop it rather than suffer the letdown.

  2. I carried a book called “Heliotropium” around with me for fifteen years. It came on vacations. It came to college. It came home again. It came to graduate school. It came with me when I got married. It moved six hundred miles to another city. I’ve stopped carrying it around with me and I know I’ll never read it, but I also don’t have the heart to give it away.

  3. How are you? Well, I hope. That was bsically a book review, no? But you are good at it cuz now I want to read it. And didn’t you just quote Runaway a few weeks ago?

    Anna Lee Waldo’s Circle of Stones sat in my bookcase for YEARS. I don’t even remember where or why I bought it. I picked it up and could not put it down and dashed to the library for Circle of Stars which was not quite as wonderful but opened up some controversial areas of American History (that I am not really interested in)

    I missed you..

  4. I have a whole nursery full of orphans. But the most neglected is Anna Karinina. My intentions are so honorable. THIS is the summer I will read that book. But no. Others always manage to nudge their way onto my lap. I know it is a classic, masterpiece, yadda yadda yadda. It’s just so damn big. And there are SO many good books to read….

  5. My 2 latest orphans:

    The Last Queen — I wanted it to be like a Michelle Moran book. It’s nothing like a Michelle Moran book.

    The Lords of Misrule — One of those award winners I’m supposed to read. It feels too much like a school assignment.

  6. I’ve become the bratty kid who takes a bite out of every chocolate and then puts it back in the box. “Ew,” I say when I get to the second page and find no paragraph breaks in sight, and the book gets put down. “Bleh,” I say one-third in when the book changes POV for the hundredth time. (Skippy Dies – I’m sure it’s good, but too many main characters for my taste.)

  7. One of my dearest friends, a beautifulsmart photographer whom I’ve known since childhood, kept insisting that I read her favorite book. Of course I will! Because it has to be as fabulous is she is, right? She even gave me a copy for my birthday several years ago, a copy that sat next to my bed so long I swear it was giving me bad dreams. (I’d open my eyes and see it staring at me.) Finally I picked it up and was feeling very virtuous until I realized that not only was the book erotic, it was porn. Not just porn but gay porn with violent tendencies. Yeah, and when a 12 year old boy gets raped by his father I had a whole new idea of why having that book on my nightstand had been giving me nightmares.

    • I had that friend-book experience, too. Very uncomfortable. Other than books damaged from ‘Katrina, it was the only book I’ve ever thrown away.

  8. The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi.

    I wanted to love this book. I really did. I went along for several chapters and found it well-written, funny, and not completely over my head . . . but for some reason, I disengaged and stopped trying.

    Maybe it just wasn’t the right time for us . . .

  9. Mause, by Art Spiegelman. I’ve had the two books since 1994 and I haven’t cracked them yet.

    And the really shameful thing is, a halocaust survivor bought them for me. She made a special trip to the Strand to get them (brand new) for me, telling me that the books were beautiful, capturing the experience in ways she never could have articulated herself.

    Their spines on my bookshelf started making me feel so guilty that I had to take them out and wrap them in a yellow plastic bag so I wouldn’t have to look at them.

  10. The Belly Fat Cure. I abandoned it because I am a slave to sugar. I still haven’t found a piece of salmon that tastes like a Baby Ruth.

    • though salmon is pretty good when glazed with red chile honey. Though still not a Baby Ruth. Or anything Dove.

      • I just finished eating two mini baby ruths this very second (which I’m pretty sure add up to more than that sounds) and am here to attest to the lack of resemblance between the babe and the fish.

      • Mary Lynne – Oh, yes. I do like my salmon tarted up. It’s the only way I like it. And how did you guess that one of my other loves is anything Dove?

        Lily – I’m jealous of those Baby Ruths. Very jealous.

  11. In Custory by Anita Desai. I feel so bad about this. It is a good book but I just grew tired. I think we have parted ways.

  12. In Custody by Anita Desai. I feel so bad about this. It is a good book but I just grew tired. I think we have parted ways.

  13. Worse than orphaning, I now take them in, feed them, hold them then leave them on the curb. Lately I do something I’ve never done before, I start a book and if I don’t love it I leave it. Jacob and the Thousand Whatever Whatevers, The Finkler Question, even Middlemarch, my life is too short…

  14. I have so many orphans. I get lured into buying them by catalog blurbs, then after they’ve been on the shelf for a while I forget what the big attraction was and just reread a Stephanie Plum.

  15. I attended a workshop by Steve a few years back at Grub Street in Boston. It was called sexing the story (or something like that) and I enjoyed the hour and a half very much ….. and even learned something in the process. Later, I picked up a copy of My Life In Heavy Metal (highly recommended) and so I’m glad to see you are enjoying Mr. Almond’s writings.

  16. My latest is Independent People by Halldor Laxness – which earned its writer a Nobel in fiction. And it even has a man wrestle-ride a reindeer down a torrential icy river! By accident! And still it languishes.

    I have left many a trail of abandoned in my wake. I feel only the slightest shame, like a refreshing breeze raising the hairs on my arm.

  17. Ha! Now that you asked, Betsy, that would be TFFTT. It’s shelved within touching distance of my desk, where I live 15 hours a day.

    And here’s the reason I haven’t read it yet. I’m waiting for uninterrupted time, scads of it, because I anticipate not wanting to get up until I devour it fully.

    Two more things. Yes, Steve Almond is hilarious. And, no, I’m not just being a suck up here on your blog.

  18. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser. My mother in law gave it to me a decade ago and I keep meaning to read it. Truth is, partial truth anyway because it is a big, daunting book, it’s a paperback and the print is small and I might have to admit my eyes ain’t as good as they used to be.

  19. (Maybe) worse than orphaning, I never removed the shrink-wrap cover that encased the book. Written by a former college professor who has gone on to helm a high profile, conservative organization, I bought it more out of curiosity than want. Then, couldn’t find the desire to read it. Now, I think it’s amusing to keep it in this hermetically sealed sleeve.

  20. I’ve orphaned more books than I care to admit. Just yesterday I threw aside Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. Clearly the language is exquisite but something about it wasn’t jiving for me. Okay, I admit I didn’t give it much of a chance (I abandoned it after only one page) but, like Bobbi pointed out, my life is too short and quiet time is even shorter.

    • I read it once, was unable to put it down, and have never forgotten it, but I’ve always resented that it wasn’t more like something by Barbara Pym. With a title like Housekeeping I expect tea and crumpets.

  21. If you haven’t read the book, then it can’t have fucked you, much less not called back. You’re the one who called, told it you wanted to go out sometime, maybe soon, then asked it to hold the line.

    I’m that person, too.

    I’m also too stoned to make sense. I just got back from Colorado. Wonderful place.

  22. Does it frighten the hell out of anyone else that this is a group of readers/writers and if we put down a book because we don’t love it…is it just me?

    My continually abandoned book is Infinite Jest. I have time in snippets and it doesn’t lend itself to that type of reading. I had to go back and reread incessantly because it’s so dense I couldn’t keep it straight in 10 minute increments here and there.

  23. I like rereading even more than reading, so am always looking for a book with which I will have a long term relationship. If I start and realize that’s not going to happen, I don’t even get to first base.

  24. As a person who loves books, stories, and imagination, I found myself nodding in recognition. Why, why, indeed. If we knew, could we prevent readers from abandoning ours? Alas, could it be a psychic, intuitive, even ghostly reason why we abandon some and not others? Perhaps, cover art might be a start. “Just Kids” lures, entices.

  25. […] post over at Dear Betsy’s got me […]

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