• 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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Take My Hand Take My Whole HEart Too

I did it. I added to Lion’s Gate’s coffers, buying a ticket to the 300 plus million dollar gross and counting for Hunger Games. I heart Catniss. You had me at bow and arrow. Lips untouched by Botox. Chariots and Stanley Tucci in a blue hairdo. (Just for the record, I also saw a rare print of Orson Welles Chimes at Midnight and the brilliant Iranian movie The Separation, which I feel I need to tell you the way you might tell your nutritionist that you had some salmon and broccoli along with the Sno-Caps and Goobers. ) High art v low. Critical v. commercial. Those standards don’t smoke themselves. It’s an argument I’m always vexed by since I go both ways. When interns and assistants ask me what I’m looking for when they read the slush, I always say the same thing: prize winners or page turners. Are they mutually exclusive? Once something gets really popular it seems to go down in the cultural estimation, where obscurity, should it by chance (or design) come out of obscurity, will get a certain kind of praise for its “authenticity.” I liked the fucking Hunger Games. Sue me.

41 Responses

  1. It’s about storytelling to me. Our wild ancestors telling dubious hunting tales around a fire at night. IMAX Harry Potter. Steinbeck. Crighton. Atwood. Harlequin Romance. Booker Prize. If people read the story, feel it and remember it, it’s good. There are at least 50 shades of good. Some sell better than others. Vanilla ice cream sells the most. That doesn’t mean passion fruit gelato is not good.

  2. I love you Betsy. I liked the fucking Hunger Games, too.

  3. I’m reading it now. I’m such a slow reader that I’ll probably finish it in time for the movie to be on Pay-Per-View. What I’ve read so far is compelling.

  4. I won’t sue—I’ll applaud.

    And freely admit I own Big Trouble in Little China, Running Man and several episodes of Biker Mice From Mars as well as the A&E version of Nero Wolfe, The recent BBC version of Sherlock Holmes, and any Shakespearean-based movie involving Emma Thompson and/or Kenneth Branagh. And a whole mess of anime.

    And those are just the movie shelves . . .

    Power to the page-turners!

  5. Just yesterday, some friends and I discussed this same conundrum during a great alfresco dinner: one person insisted he would “only” read either the classics or award-winning books because he didn’t want to waste his time reading something that MIGHT not be to his standards; the rest of us then tormented him with recounting the basic premises of a variety of more mainstream books – everything from vampires to chick lit stories.

    Four hours later, after a meal that included champagne, our rigid reader conceded that his focus was too narrow. I’d like to think that once he realized he had consumed a gourmet-quality meal without the good china, the possibility that a mainstream book could be just as satisfying as The Iliad was less disconcerting.

    Or maybe it was the sugar-high from eating a large slice of my orange chiffon cake.

  6. Those 3 Hunger Games books got me through last Christmas. Money and time well-spent.

  7. Hey, I like “The Bachelor.” I’m not judging anyone.

  8. I have this cussed streak that keeps me from jumping on bandwagons. I generally wait until the trend dies out. I will probably watch or read The Hunger Games in a year (or five).

  9. As if anyone can write with any of that on their mind.

  10. I’m also always late to the party and have often been a lit snob. But here am I peddling women’s commercial and having a decent laugh with it.

    But I’ve read that it’s forbidden to change genres because of ‘marketing’. Do I have to buy this?

  11. What’s not to like? I have never seen a movie with a woman shooting a bow and arrow that is not a good film. Think Hunger Games, The Age of Innocence.

  12. My inner child loves that when combined in the manner of celebrity couple monikers, the names Peeta and Katniss form Peeniss. Team Peeniss, everyone!

    • You have just made me love Katniss and Peeta that much more. Power to you, kind sir.

      New goal: everything I write must have dirty ship names. EVERYTHING.

    • Awesome. Perfectly awesome.

    • My inner child is tittering back at you. (Tittering! See what I did there?)

      Every time I read the name ‘Peeta’ I silently added ‘bread’. This is much better.

      • When I hear the name Peeta, I think (every single time) of the dad on Family Guy — I hear the wife calling him.

      • Me, too, Teri. Peeta!

      • Trying to get in on the “game” that my two older girls are already privvy to, my second grader keeps quoting a character in Double Fudge who apparently calls his brother “Peeta.”

      • When I explained the premise of the books to my sister she said, “Wait, the boy’s a baker and his name is Peeta?!” The name really does fall into that gray area between corny and clever… maybe that’s why I enjoy it so much.

  13. Are you going to read all three? My husband was thoroughly let down by the end of the last one. As he put it, “Well, that was a waste of time.” I find most sequels are like that. The first one is always the best.

  14. When I was 18, I worked at an amazing independent bookstore in Ft. Collins Colorado. The owners were amazing but it was from the other staff that I learned to look down my nose at popular books. (never mind that I grew up on a steady diet of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Danielle Steel–that store didn’t even carry DS!) It was during that time that I began reading classics as a choice instead of only when assigned. So now I’m 37 and I love Murakami and Dan Brown. Franzen and Meyers, Tolstoy and Stiefvater. Turns out the brain can read all kinds of stuff without becoming corrupted. I love your description “prize winners and page turners” and I’ll admit to enjoying many, many books that also fell somewhere within The Between. I’m finishing the 3rd book right now…I like the HG too.

    • Your comment “the brain can read…” reminded me of the day I was in a jury pool and while the attorneys were diligently questioning the potential jurors, I noticed the judge was intently reading the contents of a file folder, only occasionally looking away to comment on the proceedings. When I finally was seated in the jury box, I could see that the folder was actually harboring a copy of a Danielle Steele paperback. Justice is blind, indeed!

  15. My daughter said, “Mom, read it.” Yeah okay.
    Three people I work with said, “You’re a writer, read it.” Well okay.
    I’m reading it.
    K just dug P out of the mud.
    “Mom” daughter says, “Why don’t you write a book like that.” Yeah ‘write’.
    So, let’s see. Write what you know about.
    Senior female, (that’s me), grows balls, tattoos AARP on her ass and sets free entire US elderly population housed in government run elder-state, (no it’s not about Florida).
    I’m 5000 words in.

    • Put plenty of sex in. I hear The Villages is a pretty wild, swinging community. Gives me something to look forward to. AARP tramp stamp presents an, um, interesting visual.

    • One of our more posh “senior living” developments was recently scandalized with the discovery that certain residents were bringing in prostitutes under the guise that they were PT professionals. Don’t underestimate the elderly!

      • Sex, drugs and jitterbugging, what’s not exciting about that. I can see and hear the opening credits now, …teeth in glass, slurping sound and grandpa with a smile. eeeww

      • Guess what they’re bringing in along with the hookers:

        »The rates at which syphilis and chlamydia increased among older adults outpaced the nation’s average. Among all age groups nationwide, reported cases of syphilis increased 60 percent from 2005 to 2009; among those in the 55-to-64 age group, it went up 70 percent. Meanwhile, the incidence of chlamydia rose 27 percent among all ages, and double that among the older group.«

        Add dementia to the mix and it’s party like you’re 19, not 99.

  16. Well, no, I really don’t read this stuff. My bedside chair holds books by Anna Gavalda, Ian McEwan and Carole Maso. If I want to sugarcoat my brain I might watch My-So-Called-Life reruns on Sundance. Did you know that Buffalo Tom is playing at Pike Street on Thursday?

  17. That whole Commercial v. Art debate is like the raging argument going on in my world of travel writing, Tourist v. Traveler.

    The question isn’t whether or not there is a difference between the two, the question is, “Is there an IMPORTANT difference between them?” I say nope.

  18. Goddamnit I love you.

  19. It strikes me just how different the Hunger Games are from the Sweet Valley High of my youth. Not saying, just saying.

    • Everything cycles around. Around the age of 11 or 12, my mom would occasionally threaten me with reform school. This was right at the zenith of popularity of Born Innocent (in print and made-for-TV movie, starring Linda Blair, fresh off The Exorcist. By the time I got to high school, everything was Hello Kitty, Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony for teens, but I was already hardened to their charms.

    • It’s true. My 10 year old was obsessed and read all three books in a matter of days. When I was her age all I wanted was to be Olivia Newton John in spandex.

  20. I took my 15-year-old daughter to hear Suzanne Collins read and get a book signed. (Well, stamped actually. She apparently has carpal tunnel or some such ailment.) My daughter was given the above pictured Mocking Jay pin after the signing (Scholastic spared no expense!). It was like taking her to a rock concert. People were ape shit for this woman. She looked like a librarian to me. An herbal tea drinking, wild-haired, collector of antique quilts, cat owner, scone munching bookworm. You just had to love her, surrounded by all this hype and looking like she wanted to sit by a fire and knit a sweater. For all I know she’s really a dominatrix meth addict. Either way, I liked the books.

  21. Wasn’t Dickens pretty popular in his own lifetime? And that guy Shakespeare, I hear he ran a successful theater company that performed his own plays.

    • Will, that hack, always sucking up to the Queen. And Chuck Dickens, what a panderer.

      »The hype surrounding the conclusion of the series was unprecedented; Dickens fans were reported to storm the piers of New York City, shouting to arriving sailors (who might have already read the last instalment in the United Kingdom), “Is Little Nell alive?”

      »In 2007, many newspapers claimed the excitement at the release of the last volume of The Old Curiosity Shop was the only historical comparison that could be made [and how could they know? Hyping the (historical) hype?] to the excitement at the release of the last Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. « —Wikipedia

  22. Yeah, I saw it. My girl insisted and I think maybe she bought the tickets.

    I wrote a book loosely based on my eight year horribly unhealthy marriage. I like comedies. I like to laugh. We went to the movies every weekend, sometimes more. In eight years we saw two comedies. Two.

    Here’s a link to the publishing campaign for the book. Thank You.

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