• 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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You’re Beautiful, You’re Beautiful. You’re Beautiful It’s True

While I was in  graduate school, I worked at a literary agency in Gramercy Park. I sat at a desk piled high with slush and every week, after I did the typing and filing, I studiously combed the pile even though it never yielded any gems. One day, as I was leaving, I said to one of the  senior agents, “I’d just like to find something once.” “Yeah,” she said, “tell me about it.” I couldn’t understand her world weariness. After all, she had a roster of clients, surely she knew something about discovering talented writers.

It’s like sex. The longer you go without it, the more your standards drop. One of the worst things that can happen to an agent is that he no longer listens to his gut. Finding great material is difficult, finding great material that should be become a book is even more difficult. Clicking with a writer and believing in your collaborative efforts is also a rare gift. I read three things I loved this weekend. Two by clients and by a writer I hope to take on. I couldn’t believe my luck. And this after a long, dry spell.

What was your last great discovery?

49 Responses

  1. The notes from a non-fiction book that started this whole thing for me years ago. Here I go. . .

  2. Discovery…something that was always there that needed to be uncovered…friendships that developed from comments online. Who would have thought that some of these people would become my nearest and dearest?
    I think friendship is like the slushpile, but my odds are far better. Or maybe I’d make one hell of an agent.

  3. “Great” is a word that gets tossed around so freely in our hyperbolic culture, I don’t hardly know what it means anymore.

    That said, there’s an editor up your way who cracked my mind open a couple months back. She did something to one of my stories that expanded my conception of prose forms in a singular fashion. I may have mentioned it here before. Imagine taking a dump truck and in a few deft cuts and shifts turning it into a crotch rocket.

  4. Dark chocolate with sea salt and almonds.

    That I can say no and not be struck by lightening.

  5. I don’t know what my most recent great discovery is, but Svarga-dvar, the cremation grounds in Puri, India, persists in memory. I know it sounds terribly morbid, but it was fascinating to see this place of sorrow, the “gateway to heaven” surrounded by all the mindless trappings of a tourist town. Little kids, their hair dripping with seawater, skinny legs skirted by gingham towels, stepped haltingly past the fires on their way back from the beach, more disturbed by the stray dogs that circled the pyres (they never got a break, thanks to the priests) than by the bodies in flames. It was memento mori to cinematic perfection, and it piqued the interest of this wannabe philosopher. I could just stand there all day and watch people, living and dead, come and go, imagining their stories.

    • All your stories would make a beautiful book for us all to discover.

      • Yes they would.

        You’re very special, T. Give us a book already.

      • I hear you both! Gah, if underachievement were an Olympic event, I’d be a gold medalist. I’ve made a commitment to get a draft done by the end of August. Since I don’t drink, neither booze nor coffee, the only thing that will keep my ass in the chair is the grace of God and your good wishes. Thanks for your encouragement.

      • Yes, Tulasi-Priya, keep on writing!

  6. I don’t know how great it was but I discovered I had already read TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING. Has that ever happened to ya’ll, when you believe you’re reading a book for the first time and then 3/4 of the way through you realize, fuck, I’ve read this before? And not only that, you have no idea how it ends.

  7. Three things loved in one weekend, beautiful indeed. My last great discovery was my husband, everything else has suffered by comparison.

  8. My last great discovery…something very personal which has changed my life immeasurably.

    Two years ago I did something I NEVER believed I could do, achieved a goal I BELIEVED was unthinkable. After a lifetime of being, and I will use the dreaded word, FAT, I lost over ninety pounds. From a size 22 to a size 8 in a year has changed how I view every single goal I have set for myself. Apart from the health benefits, losing (actually quite easy) and maintaining, (a struggle at times), has FINALLY made me feel normal, (whatever that is). I am on a level playing field now and no longer need the insulation being overweight creates. That it WOULD GO the way of memories is my greatest achievement.

    Will there be peace in the world…where do I come from…why am I here…will I ever be fat again, ah, the profound questions of life.

    • That is fantastic Wry! Congratulations.

    • I’m always, always impressed by stories of significant weight-loss, since I can’t seem to get it together to lose “only” 25 pounds. Good for you, Wry. I’m curious, was SparkPeople part of your program?

      • Nope on the SparkPeople.

        What’s great is that my daughter lost over a hundred, she looks like a freaking model. I keep kidding her that she and I will make the January cover of ‘People’ one of these years.

        I’ve got a solution for your 25 lbs. Actually it isn’t 25 lbs you have to lose, it’s only one lb. Once you lose that one go for one more.

        If I can do it so can you, BELIEVE ME, so can you.

  9. That surrender doesn’t mean defeat.

  10. I recently discovered that Fantagraphics is reprinting some of the comics of my childhood. Donald Duck! Uncle Scrooge! I didn’t read many of them as a child because I didn’t always have pocket money. Now I can read them all, in glorious Technicolor, and so far they’re just as good as I remember. Pogo is being reprinted, too, which I used to read every day in The Washington Post! Can Little Lulu be far behind? O joy!

  11. I’ve had two, 1) Prempro! I’d kiss the feet of whoever developed that – although the fact it’s made from urine of pregnant mares is kind of sickening. Maybe I ought to Google that to see if it’s true, but what does it matter? Will I stop taking it? NO. 2) This one is at the risk of sounding like a major, kiss ass brown noser, but I’m just being honest. This blog was a great discovery. I read it every day even though I don’t always comment. I can’t explain it – but I’m hooked – and I have an agent so no, it’s really not being a major kiss ass brown noser. It’s just the truth.

    Glad you found golden nuggets of treasure this weekend.

    • Yes, it is made from the urine of pregnant mares. There are plant-based alternatives that work just as well without heightening your risk of breast cancer. Big Pharma thinks nothing of putting us all in danger if they can continue making heaps of cash. I recommend seeing an alternative practitioner to get your hormones in balance.

      • It made the Migraine world a much more horrible place to live. And I had to take it “unopposed” cuz progesterone turned me into an axe murderer within hours. As I remember, it helped the depression. Big Pharm is all a crap shoot nowadays. What ever works. I tried a mango martini and it was pretty good.

    • I obviously live in a coma – had to google “Prempro” to learn about this med. It wouldn’t have helped me; I was a text-book candidate for a minimally invasive out patient proceedure and couldn’t crawl onto the operating table fast enough. Suffice to say, even though the doc worried I might flat-line (again), all is wonderful now. Best of luck to you with this treatment!

    • Wendell Berry writes of some Amish farmers getting a cash income from keeping mares “on the urine line”—stabled and restrained for six months at a time, continually pregnant (the foals are a separate commodity) and catheterized. I’ll spare you the link to the video. I’m not trying to preach, only inform, but it’s true: plant-based alternatives work just as well, and what’s more, actually promote health (not just suppress or cover up symptoms) for a body in transition and beyond. I’m doing great, even using hardly any herbs. I’m always available to talk over herbs and such with anyone who’s curious or interested. You can contact me through my blog. @donnaeve: maybe this is your next great discovery?

      (steps down off of soapbox)

  12. That taking care of myself is a lot more complicated than I thought.

  13. Walking through the woods the other day, I saw a Lady Slipper flower, beautiful, pink and full. It wasn’t the first Lady Slipper I had ever seen, but it’s always a pleasure to see them in the late spring. Like many other flowers this year, it seemed to arrive early and made me think, again, about global warming. It’s real and we’re going to pay a price for our destructive indulgences. Walk when you can, ride a bike often; gotta start somewhere.

    Last night I started reading a book of short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri, “Unaccustomed Earth.” Within a few pages of the title story I was hooked, transported into a traveler’s world. Once more I have discovered the joy of reading and also the inspiration to keep working, to keep writing.

    And then, this morning, my daughter said, “Well, you know, dad, lemonade and chocolate go well together.”
    “I suppose so, honey.”
    “You know what I mean, dad? Pee and poop!”
    Not necessarily a great joke, but hell, it made me laugh; kid has a strange sense of humor.

    • Potty humor is alive and well in this house too, Mike!

      When we’re living in Finland, I usually get around on a bike or by foot. There are so many bike paths, it’s easy. Where I live now? Sometimes it’s scary to go out in a car. My weed infested lawn is proof I garden organically though.

      • The DOT refused to include a bike path along the road between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, a popular, two lane road that redefines Pothole City. Their solution is a scary one: Widen the shoulder for bikers by narrowing the vehicle lanes. Progressive municipalities are including bike plans in their roadway plans; towns in way upstate NY are apparently not among them.

        As far as lawns, weeds add something and, as a golf course superintendent buddy of mine once said, “Crabgrass is better than no grass.”

      • I like the way your buddy thinks. I know that road well. Have hiked many a mountain and canoed the lakes. Grew up in the sticks close by.

    • Will somebody explain to me the whole ‘LadySlipper’ flower thing. All my husband talks about is the Lady Slippers we have at the edge of our woods, how he used to see so many when he was a kid and now there’s only a few. It’s not like my husband is into plants, or global warming or ‘whatever’ but he has to point out to everyone who comes over, his little Lady Slippers.
      He is concerned though because there are a few with large leaves but no stalks and flowers. We aren’t sure if something is eating them or what.
      Awe Christ, now he has me talking about the damn flowers.

      • Perhaps the most overtly vaginal flower I’ve ever seen.

        Now Jack in the Pulpit, where has that flower gone to?

  14. As a young child, I believed in monsters. Since then, I’ve learned that many do exist: but from a comfortable distance will they look remarkably like normal people. I have looked into the eyes of evil, as a heartless smirk reinforced that person’s merciless satisfaction in my distress. My greatest discovery is finding the methods to contentedly survive despite the actions of those individuals.

  15. My great discovery is you and I’m willing reciprocation on your part. (435)635-1470 home and (207)484-8078 cell.

  16. Discovery of the month for me is that extra sharp cheddar and carrots together make an awesome snack. Also that I can give my newly diabetic cat insulin without freaking out. At the risk of sounding utterly maudlin I am constantly discovering my loved ones are fabulous. Also that when my writing is criticized for something, like lack of a plot, I lose patience for writing that suffers the same, at least temporarily. Also reading Oliver Sachs. I hadn’t read him. Lovely.

  17. My last great discovery: I can run! A while back I could barely stand without ending up in the ER, but this weekend I did 60 minutes of walking/jogging intervals every day. Sore has never felt so good.

    My second greatest discovery: booking.com. It’s part of priceline and covers travel in Europe.

  18. Okay, so donnaeve said it and so will I. If anyone wants to see my nose, fine, no brown really.
    You Betsy, this blog.
    This community is supportive, bawdy, funny and very smart. It’s all about saying fuck when you want to say fuck. Freedom of speech is a great thing, freedom to say fuck is even better.

  19. An Imaginary Life by David Malouf. It has permeated my thinking.

  20. My last great discovery was finding your blog. Miss you.
    Aunt Susan

  21. I want to be someone’s great find. That would be nice.

    Maybe I’m yours. It’s not necessary, but it would be nice.

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