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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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The Words She KNows The TUnes She Hums

I watched a movie over the weekend called Margaret. The movie was many things, but at its heart a powerful mother daughter story, or at least that’s how I read it. It said everything I’ve been trying to say with my so-called movie. Only I realized that I have been writing with crayons. Fuck shit piss. It sucks when you realize how low you really are on the ladder of who gets fucked and who doesn’t. And this brilliant movie by Kenneth Lonergan was apparently put on ice for twelve years over disputes among the producers and only just released on Netflix. No red carpet, no party, no Box Office returns. It’s from the same director of You Can Count On Me, which was a near perfect evocation of adult siblings dealing with an infirm father. Laura Linney. Philip Seymour Hoffman. It’s really okay. Every way to look at “where you are” in the great food chain of work getting produced is subject to nausea, panic, and delusional thinking. You just have to keep working and hopefully improving. I’m not giving up the ship, just a little wind taken out of my sails. Margaret, are you grieving, over Goldengrove  unleaving?

What have you read or seen lately that made you feel like a piece of shit?

42 Responses

  1. Rejection letters from agents, Medicare claim denials and one of the most depressing medical histories I have had come across my desk for treatment, a spinal cord patient exactly my age.
    And I prefer Marvin’s Room for my parental care taking films.

  2. The Laura Linney/Phil Hoffman movie with Philip Bosco as the father was The Savages. You Can Count on Me was Laura Linney with Mark Ruffalo (yum) as her brother and Matthew Broderick as love interest. Tamara Jenkins, who directed Savages, hasn’t been able to get backing for another film. Hollywood, Argofuckyouself.

  3. Recently, I was the undeserving target of an angry tirade. The hateful intent of that ten minute rant left me unable to appreciate anything except silence for several hours. Thankfully, there are lawyers to sort out these messes.

  4. The Savages was an amazing film. So authentic. Far better than the one about the loving couple whose life was disrupted when the beautiful wife’s Alzheimer’s became too much to manage. Her husband reluctantly moved her into a facility, where she quickly hooked up with a fellow resident who also had dementia. The husband was crushed when he came to visit and she failed to recognize him.

    More films need to be made about this topic which affects all of us sooner or later. Will have to watch Margaret.

    Betsy, you can’t compare your work to someone else’s. You’re feeling frustrated because you haven’t managed to see your work through to completion yet. Focus, and you’ll get there. Your movie will be different, and even better.

  5. “What have you read or seen lately that made you feel like a piece of shit?”

    Oh, Betsy, sweetheart, what have I not?

  6. I recently re-read a comment I made on someone else’s blog and immediately felt like a total horse’s ass. I know what I meant to say and managed to say the complete opposite while sounding like an idiotic jerk.

    i wanted to tell the blogger to just scrape me off his shoe here, thanks, I’ll crawl the rest of the way home.

  7. Well, I’m afraid to watch Girls for precisely that reason. In other news, I’m reading the 2012 PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories anthology and it’s been pretty motivating and rather grounding.

  8. Every memoir I pick up…and yet I keep picking them up and reading on.

  9. Your blog yesterday. Not only do I have to be an awesome writer, I have to be gorgeous. Oh well. I’ll take the awesome writer if I have to choose.

  10. At the end of art class the instructor made us line our work up against a wall. I was pissed and disappointed to rank third from the bottom of the class. Of course that was my opinion, I might have been last.

    • Deb – Join the club. I was sent to the school shrink for the way I colored-in the line drawings in my elementary-grade work books. It was a great experience for me as a 7-year old to learn how to defend my creative veiwpoint.

      • What? That’s insane. My daughter is a great visual artist and sculptor at age 12 and had a teacher riding her back at school for the way she was drawing. But this is in the socialistic wonderland of everyone has to be the same in order to be equal. Switched her to an alternative ed school before her creativity is squelched.

      • Ok, that was me.

  11. As long as we’re on the subject of mother-daughter relationships…

    https://macdougalstreetbaby.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/this-little-writer-of-mine/

    • I got an email from my mom last night, gently informing me that I’m hypercritical and incapable of friendships and should not bother to try. Don’t take it the wrong way, she says. You’re just like me.

      • On behalf of all heartless mothers everywhere, I’m sorry. Sometimes there’s nowhere else to go with our own frustrations and hurt. It has absolutely nothing to do with you. Please, if there’s one thing to know in this world, it’s that.

  12. The Rules of Civility. Same time frame, different book, but so much better done. I feel like an angsty teenager. It’s such a short trip from when will my book be finished to what’s the point?

    I loved The Savages, but then I’ve loved Philip Seymour Hoffman in everything he’s done.

  13. In a Paris Review interview someone like Ray Bradbury or Faulkner was asked if they read any contemporary fiction while they were working on a piece. They answered that if they ever did that they would never write again, because what would be the point? They could never write as well as what they were reading.

    Anything I read makes me feel like a POS.

  14. This realization is hard, really hard.
    I found an old journal. It’s a ‘day to day’ I started in 2000 that I sporadically update year after year. 02 to 04 notations are amazing; very good years and exciting. When I came to October the years scratched on the pages are strange, few highs and many lows. For the last ten years I noted that in October I have hated my job, I mean really, really hated what I was doing (no matter what is was) and wanted to get in a car and drive away from everything I hold dear. I picked up the journal, and read it this year, because of my unrest and absolute misery at work.
    What’s interesting is that this is the time of the year; in ’05 I started writing my first novel which plants the main character’s ass in a car and has her leaving everything behind to drive cross country. Obviously I had my character do what I wanted to do but could not. I’m sure this had to do with the fact that I was born in October, another year removed, another added on? We tend to examine the currency of our lives at birthday time. So what have I read that made me feel like shit, the last dozen Octobers of my life.

  15. If I have one thing going for me in this crazy world of words, it is my short memory for such things. I have heard a thousand times how I should begin my thriller/mysteries quickly. Get right to it! Don’t tell them what the weather is. That lesson was nailed home when I read John Grisham’s “The Client.” My work is unadulterated shit alongside his. Faced with that comparison, only an idiot would continue to do what I do . . . if he had a choice. My work is much better than two years ago when I stacked it against Mr Grisham’s. Don’t fret too much. Remember, in your script, you are looking at the raw product. Much more so than for a book, it takes a village to make a movie.

  16. I am right in the middle of THE TWELFTH ENCHANTMENT by David Liss and all I can think is: 1. Shit, I’m not the only one writing about this; 2. Shit, he is a much better writer than I am; 3. Shit and Thank God he writes for adults. 4. Can I possibly use this as a comp even though it’s not YA?

  17. I’m not answering this question correctly because I just finished John Irving’s “In One Person” and it was simply TERRIBLE. Didn’t make me feel particularly great, but at least I know that once upon a time, I wrote better than that piece of you-know-what. I can’t imagine what happened, and why his editor/publisher allowed it.

  18. I can feel like shit watching Modern Family or Boss or Ellen. I felt like shit after Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close, after The Dovekeeers, after The Hunger Games (all 3), after The Art of Fielding, after Good Night Moon. I feel like shit every time I go in a bookstore. I feel like shit reading this blog. What the hell am I doing? Shit.

  19. Watching bio film of Charlotte Rampling’s career and life choices. She’s one year older than I am. Look what she’s accomplished!! It makes me feel like I’ve been hunkered down in the corner sucking my thumb.

  20. The past few years I’ve watched almost nothing but children’s movies and it’s been kind of fun at times and a good opportunity to nap at others. I mean, there is some awful stuff out there, horrible animation, stupid stories and dreadful music. But the good ones have kept my daughter and I at the edge of our seats and I can only marvel at how effectively and beautifully a story can be told in under 90 minutes. It’s an art form not enough people appreciate. My daughter’s current favorite is Tangled; good plot and character development, decent story and I enjoyed the extras, the stages the beginning went through before settling on the (appropriate) start of the tale. For mother/daughter conflicts, check out Brave. The story Up (I think that’s the title — the one about the old man and the balloons) shoots a big Fuck you at the aging process. The Toy Story movies are fun, although I blame them for my daughter becoming a hoarder of toys. The Shrek movies make me laugh. Overall, some unexpectedly cool shit.
    As for books, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth left me feeling like I have a long way to go before I can tell a decent, intricate and unexpected story. I’m about one quarter of the way through Russell Banks’ Cloudsplitter. This book required a huge commitment to start and the voice of the narrator, 19th century precise vernacular, is challenging, but the story is interesting and partially takes place close to home; I’ve been to John Brown’s farm near Lake Placid and Cloudsplitter is the translation from the Indian (Algonquin? Iroquois?) word Tahawus, the original name of Mt. Marcy (renamed after a NY governor), the tallest mountain in NY and one of many high peaks visible from the old abolitionist’s homestead. I’m in awe of the writing and the research that went into this book.
    I have a long ways to go, but hell, I’ve got to start somewhere.

    • Russell Banks is a god of writing.

      • He lives down the road a ways, okay, about 45 miles away, and he’s well liked in this area. A stone mason friend of mine refers to him as Russ. My wife gave me a copy of Cloudsplitter for an anniversary present and when I told that to Russell Banks at a reading he did nearby recently, he asked, What anniversary? 14. I’m at 24, he said and we chatted briefly about the old freed slave settlement of Timbuctoo and the plateau of land — the Tablelands, now a research center and huge potato farm owned by Cornell University — near John Brown’s farm. Later I looked at the inscription he wrote above his signature — for Mike, Congratulations!
        And I agree — he’s an incredible writer as well.

      • Find Waldo Tomofsky’s blog.

      • Cool story, Mike! I love Cloudsplitter but Continental Drift is one of my top 5 books ever.

    • Me too on the Diaz book. Actually, all three of his books. And “Tinkers” by Paul Harding. I just happened to run into P.H. in a Spanish tapas place last week while waiting for a table for my husband’s birthday dinner. I introduced myself as a huge fan of his work. He could not have been more gracious. Said I’d made his night. Were I in possession of talent like that, Lord, I’d just strut around. Anyway, sometimes I read the above books and want to give up, but more often I want to keep writing.

    • i haven’t read any of his books, but the two stories he had in the new yorker this summer just past were very impressive. he holds the conch.

  21. I just love you Betsy Lerner, everything you say has such meaning…

    Love
    Margaret Bradley

  22. Well, this morning I was doing the green apple two step, tonight the debate is on, and tommorrow I start a root canal. All that leaves me feeling pretty shitty.

    But I had a hellofa good weekend wit dem coonasses!

  23. The debate begins in 32 minutes. OMG.

  24. “Unfortunately, I have to pass on your work because I wasn’t enthusiastic enough about your concept.”

    And…Boom. I am now channeling excrement.

  25. On the other hand, Tiny Dancer is always an antitode to feeling like shit. Like the bus scene in Almost Famous.

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