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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 Know This World Is Killing You

Today’s Style section in the NYT devoted a great deal of space to group of highly educated, underemployed kids who started their own on-line magazine called THe New Inquiry, in case you missed it, which would be nearly impossible given the ginormous picture of these really attractive lit slits and boy toy. Not a Flannery or Eudora among them. God, they’re hot. The literary world is really stepping up.

When Methuselah here was a cub herself, she started a magazine called Big Wednesday with two fellow poets from the Columbia Writing Program. We featured the work of Denis Johnson, Kate Braverman, Rick Moody, David Means, and others. Once a month we hosted a kind of free for all reading called WHeel of Poets and we had an actual wheel and an emcee called Jennifer Blowdryer with platinum blonde hair and a sexy snarl. Fuck if we didn’t have a lot of fun.

Making a magazine is the young writer’s equivalent of putting on a play. It’s that fantastic time in your life when you are nothing and everything, when you have to take what you want, create what you don’t have, band together or die. Algonquin Round Table, Bloomsbury Group, Merry Pranksters, THe Lost Generation, Big Wednesday. What is the point of being a writer if not gathering with other like minded assholes at a bar or cafe and insisting on your superiority. Writers hate each other and need each other and, I believe, will better survive this impossible Darwinian struggle and the world’s general indifference if they have a place to go, a magazine to behold, and a respite from being so alone.

How do you roll?

61 Responses

  1. Once a month a meet with ‘The Great (But Not Only) Canadian Book Club. Every two weeks, I attend a writing group. I also mentor a very talented writer who struggles with issues that prevent her from attending a traditional writing group and I do my best to support and promote my published writer friends via my social network.

    Recently, I formed a relationship with another writer. We’re at similar points in revisions and I’ve found her critiques helpful and inspiring. I hope she can say the same about me.

    At all these events I eat and drink. Or drink and eat. Depends.

    Whether encouraging someone else or being encouraged, hokey as it sounds, I feel my best when I’m with ‘my tribe’.

  2. I think I was the emcee, right? Jennifer was our loveable, trashy “Vanna White”…

    There is a box of about thirty “Big Wednesday’s” issue 2 (or 3?) in my garage. I’m not very objective on the issue, but they still look good.

  3. I meet with two other women to critique each others work once a month and have been for almost 3 years. It’s the best thing to have happened in my writing life. That and marrying a man who can support a wife who has yet to make any money from her writing.

  4. Lah-dee-fucking-dah. . .

  5. I’m a Barber Shop Quartet person.

  6. i’m a writer but i get along much better with musicians and filmmakers. writers are impossible people. why would i want to hang out with people who hate me if i am successful? and it doesn’t seem to matter how successful they are, even if they are more successful than i am, they are constantly in competition. life is a zero-sum game to these people.

    and there is no age cutoff on starting a magazine. i will do it one of these days, even if it takes until i’m 80.

    • I was about to protest this comment, but then realized aliceo is right: writers are impossible. We can be such snobs, and so petty. We get all miffy when people do things like neglect to capitalize properly. I don’t imagine filmmakers and musicians even need to know that sort of thing. 😉

  7. Averil and macdougalstreetbaby are my go-to girls right now, hopefully for a long time to come. I admire them both so much. Some of the other commenters here at Betsy’s place have been trés gentille and very encouraging to me also.

    Then there’s August. He hasn’t involved himself in my writing life directly, but just his presence here is enlivening and inspiring. I look forward to his random rants.

    I used to be in a writers’ group, and will return someday, but there’s something about our little online klatch that feels more personal and intimate, even though I’ve never met any of you. Some of you I don’t even know your real names! I’ve often thought Betsy (or somebody) should compile the cream of the comments posted here into a book. I feel like some of my best writing has been done in that little box.

    And of course, Betsy is a spiritual lifeline for me as a (wannabe) writer. Dispensing affection, bile, and wisdom in equal parts, she has brought us all together. Hugs and smooches to you all.

  8. Bet it was hard to get in the bathroom at those shindigs.

  9. I am lorn withouten remedy.

    In other words, I crave a lit community; instead, i got suburbia in Upstate NY.

  10. The Courier: NYU’s Fortnightly Newsmagazine, 1982. Someone asked me, illustrator in residence, if I would like to write articles once in a while. Good times.

  11. “Lit slits“—what the hell?!

    • “Slits” is a pop cultural reference to Johnny Rotten’s German step-daughter’s punk rock band, who were famous for five minutes in the Callahan-era, cusp-of-Thatcher Britain of 1980. Maybe it was 1979.

      • Thank you for clarifying. You can’t imagine where my mind was taking me! (ha ha!)

      • I can imagine, Bonnie.

        Thanks, Vivian. Paired with “boy toy,” I thought it might have been a typo of “lit sluts” I’ve actually heard of the Slits, but didn’t make the connection. A literary magazine by the over-educated seems the antithesis of punk to me, but I don’t get around much.

      • Thank you, my mind was following Bonnie’s

  12. I roll as best I can with four corners and a rudimentary map — and a lot of encouragement from the FTF gang.

  13. Thanks to the internet, I’m rolling. I’ve got me a posse, each day a new story, and nothing in terms of expectation. What you see here, this is the good life.

  14. How do I roll. I roll quiet as deadwood. Imagine the long tired railroad tie. I like it out here in the elements.

    My brother who hates animals just got a pit bull pup. I’m sure he’s running drugs. You think? I’d like to roll over his ass about right now.

    • Teri- if you are the railroad tie, you sure are supporting some great “trains of thought”. Carry them well!

      Now you have me worried about that pup – do I need to mention the so-called sport that employs this breed? I’ll keep a good thought he will lose interest and this pup will get a deserving, good home.

  15. Baby I…

    Roll,
    just like a troll,
    whose only friends
    is pit bulls.
    But even they
    think me a dork
    (unless, of course, I’m holding pork).

    Ain’t got no group,
    nor a troup,
    my social time
    is scoopin poop
    from the soil
    Alone I toil,
    thanking gods my dogs is loyal.

    Ain’t keepin up wit
    da Joneses,
    or da Kardashians,
    but tons o’ words,
    I am mashin ’em.

    I went deep
    with no peeps,
    but that also means,
    No creeps!
    While I’m puttin words
    in a heap.

    Hall o’ the Mountain Queen
    is my theme
    “the end,” is what I dream.

    Publication is the scheme.
    Maybe then, I’ll get a team

  16. I was a founding editor “Orchid: A Literary Review,” from 2002 through 2006. “Orchid” was a marvelous short-lived literary journal. Yes, publishing “Orchid” was fun. We published some great writers. Ultimately, the work of publishing the journal detracted from my own writing. That’s not why the journal came to an end. The journal came to an end because we ran out of money. An underfunded enterprise going out of business proved to be a blessing leading to my meeting my wife who I’ve been married to for 37 years. The underfunding of my lit journal led me to refocus on my own writing. Time will tell whether that is a blessing or not.

  17. Oh to reminisce on the age before mortgages or business loans tempered ones thoughts, when inner clocks did not beat in harmony with time clocks and creative energy oozed from each pore! Like a school of fish, there was safety and acceptance in those creative circles; the: last vestige of collegiate life before trekking deep into the Working World.

    I was once part of such a creative group. Now, we are living all over North America – some are even retired. We gathered together last summer for an afternoon: a rowdy gang of middle-agers with purposely colored hair and thickening waists, each successful in their own path, yet not so dazzling as when we ran as a pack.

    Hope this New Guard has as wonderful an adventure.

  18. how do i roll? a coupled pair of Helmholz equations do the job.

  19. I am quite daunted by writers, that’s why the Internet is a great bejewelled screen. I love the idea of a literary magazine, but then I used to think running a hip bar was a great idea.

  20. This place and Averil Dean’s are where I go when I roll out from under my rock.

  21. I roll with the best bunch of gals I’ve never met. Blogosphere baby. Downith, Vivian, MSB, Amy, Teri, Lisa, Averil,, Catherine, etc. And it’s really good. Mainly because none of them ever say shit like this: “They’re the precursor of this kind of synthesis of extrainstitutional intellectualism, native to the Internet, native to the city dweller.” And nobody hates each other.

  22. I loved big wednesday, especially Betsy and those Betty pieces. Cool!

  23. OK, now I’ve read the Times article.

    25-year old me, who had a second job working as a book store clerk at B. Dalton’s on Fifth Ave in Manhattan, would want to tell these kids to get over themselves. My 25-year old me would want to get all working class on their asses and mock them for their darling assumptions that their term-paper writing prowess entitled them to the some level of protection and honors-class special treatment in the work place, that their dainty sense of self should be affronted by the horrors – the horrors! – of having to work at unglamorous jobs like putting up with all those “arrived” writers at the New Yorker. My 25-year old self would want to show them the uniform I wore, complete with name tag, for my full time job and the other name tag I wore for my part-time semi-literary job (shelving books and escorting customers’ kids to the employee bathroom). 25-year old me would be itching for a fight.

    But I was 25 thirty years ago and although I am still pretty good with my fists, I can read an article like this and think, “Awwww. That’s so cute.” But really; good for them. They are mermaids, singing for each other.

    And that Jonathan Lethem quote…that was a joke, right?

    • Although I agree there’s way too much entitlement going around these days, I’m kind of envious. Yes they’re naïve, but remember the days of raging against the status quo? How fun it was to have all that energy and passion to throw at the world. On the flip side, I get what you’re saying. I worked every crap job available and didn’t ask for a dime from my parents at the age of 25. I interviewed members of the young set at my last job and was floored when one couldn’t tell me what exactly he was trained to do, but wouldn’t work for less than $100k/yr and the young woman who said she would take the job even though I hadn’t offered and would be coming in whenever because she needed time to work on her thesis. I might have laughed. Do they think we’re Europe?

    • 25-year-old me was in Bumphuck, Germany with a baby on my hip and one in the oven, serving tea for the OWC and trying not to screw up my husband’s high-and-tight. I would have had no idea what the hipsters were talking about.

  24. It’s warm under my rock, icy out there.

  25. Betsy, you have a connection with Columbia? I have been studying Rachel Wetzsteon who taught at Barnard.

  26. What Vivian said.

  27. Oh, yes. I’ve started a few magazines, one an underground campus rag. I did everything myself. Wrote all the articles under various bylines with different voices, and did the layout, etc., because I love to do that, too. They had an extremely limited circulation because I was too shy to let strangers see them, but gosh it was fun. There’s nothing more fun than publishing magazines. Some of my favorite books are those about the early days of the New Yorker. I read them and wish I had lived back then. (And worked at the New Yorker, of course.)

  28. I go through writing groups like I go through hairdressers. For a while it’s all new and I look fabulous but when I can’t take it anymore I leave, usually in the middle of the night without a note, because I don’t believe them anymore.

    Then I turn up on the other side of the city or in another state and take up with someone else.

    I’m basically a serial monogamist, though. When you got me you got me.

    And I don’t think I was ever 25….

    • Sounds to me like you know yourself pretty darn well. I’d say it may be time to change your net name.

  29. Three of us in a bar, arguing loudly about poetry, and loving every moment of it.

  30. (BTW I’m dressed in an untucked oxford shirt and off-brand jeans, sitting at a rickety table packed with half-empty Ribena bottles.)

    I am an Internet Native looking for extrainstitutional laughs.

  31. Needed:
    Incredible illustrator
    perceptive photographer
    smoke and music
    painfully insecure but hugely talented writer who knows where and how to score drugs;
    radical is a good way to roll.

  32. Somewhere between art school intellectual and homegrown agnostic. Anti-posse even hate the word. Resistant of supportive understanding. I don’t want to be understood. I want to be read.

  33. Hopefully at least too damn fast for the moss to grow!

  34. In a minivan, with kid slobber on my shirt and cat hair on my coat.
    I live a very rich fantasy life…

  35. Out here in L.A. we had “the elegant mob” and a lit review called “Read,” which was distributed at a nightclub of the same name. We had some notoriety and put on events and got a newspaper article written about us, too. I’m sure we were very cute then, but the sensation was it would only get you so far. I knew then there were many hours apart from the crowd grinding out real substance; that you’re either an impresario or the person who creates.

  36. With a few exceptions, I’ve found writers to more interesting when they’re writing than when they’re peopling.

  37. Right now I’m rolling with a little help from my friends and 37.5 mg of something or other.

  38. Thank you, Betsy, for posting the link to that stylin’ story. Out here in the provinces, along the distant dusty frontiers of the crumbling empire, we desperadoes often don’t know what’s going on until some time after it no longer is.

    May the bright young things shine on.

    • the bright young things drink 4 bottles of wine and tell one another to fuck off over a table the size of a postage stamp. then you buy them sushi lunch while they sweat regrets. aren’t they lovely?

  39. Love the post title. Great song.

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