• Bridge Ladies

    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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You’re the Only One I See

Are there any writers who you love so much that you read all of their books? That you drop everything when a new book of theirs is published? That you reread them so often that the spines are broken, the pages soft with wear? THat you won’t lend them? That you go their readings and are either too tongue tied to say anything or blather like a fool? That you get into bar brawls over them? And keep buying copies of their books to give to friends. And when they publish a stinker you understand and forgive. After all, who can be a genius all of the time?

Anyone fit the bill?

90 Responses

  1. Sebald to most of those, though he is dead. Lish to many of those, to whom I owe so much. Schutt, who is a master. Michel, who took so long. Lutz, who got it right.

  2. Definitely! Dennis Lehane and John Connolly, and a few others (I’m too lazy to type their names.)

  3. Hilary Mantel, Margaret Atwood, Anthony Trollope (yes, he’s dead, but still . . . ), GRR Martin.

  4. I’ve been copyediting for more than ten years; maybe forty manuscripts a year. Andrew Smith is the one who does it for me. I worry about coming off like a stalker.

  5. Charles Dickens, Richard Ford, Jonathan Raban. I like your last two sentences. Such a lovely thought.

  6. I’ve recently been disappointed by the works of a few of my long-time favorites. I won’t name any names, and I am not willing to give up on them by any means. I keep buying and keep reading–because every great writer experiences a hiccup. (And some of us mediocre writers have a terminal case of the hiccups.)

    As far as being tongue-tied when meeting one of my favorites: I met David Sedaris a few nights ago. Yes, I was a blathering idiot, but he didn’t seem to notice. The man was one of the warmest and most engaging writers I’ve ever met. After that conversation, I’d readily buy a roll of toilet paper from the guy.

    • I once worked at a bookstore where Sedaris gave a reading. I met him for about three seconds in the back room. It was a huge reading and almost all the bookstore staff was there. He sent us a thank you card and mentioned every single one of our names. Swoon. I would buy toilet paper FOR him.

    • I just saw him! Fabulous, funny, generous. He’s hawking Bernard Cooper’s book The Bill from My Father. I absolutely love Bernard Cooper! His craft is just mind-boggling!

  7. Marilynne Robinson (no stinkers so far) and Cormac McCarthy; Hilary Mantel and Jane Gardam – another wonderful English writer.

  8. What a great question. All of the ones I can think of are dead. John Steinbeck, C.S. Lewis, and Jane Austen.

    When it comes to those living it’s harder, especially in the literary realm. Jodi Piccoult who is more good old fiction than literary. And Francis Chan and Mark Driscoll, who are both inspirational/Christian authors.

  9. Two – Connie Wilis and Charles de Lint. Of course Tolkien is my all time favorite, but he isn’t writing anymore.

  10. Kingsolver (just came today! so excited), Conroy, Erdrich, Ondaatje, Atwood, Hirshfield, Olds. Disappointment is relative. They usually get too intellectually smart for me the older they get but I just go back to the early ones for a dose of raw. They all always remind me why I write and why I’m alive. I’ll give copies but no one reads my copy.

    If there’s more of a gift to the word than the books of these people, I don’t know what it is. (Well, other then perfect lyrics with perfect music)

    I’d say your blog posts but that would be shameless sucking up.

  11. mary gaitskill ~ her books, articles, the way she lives her life. she recently said the current state of short story writing is bloodless. it thrilled and challenged me to hear it.

  12. Margaret Atwood and John Irving until I stopped reading books for adults.

  13. Easy. Carol Shields. I was actually mad when she died.

  14. There have been many, starting with Joseph Conrad, who never disappointed.

  15. Alice Munro. She never disappoints and she is pretty much a genius all of the time. I’d also add Jhumpa Lahiri and Edward P. Jones.

  16. David Foster Wallace. Someone above mentioned Harper Lee, I reread TKAM every spring……if you’re only going to write one book…..

  17. Alice Munro. Have read all of her books;her latest is on my Christmas list. A few years ago I loaned two of my hardbacks to someone who upped sticks and moved away. I still get a pang when I think of those old friends gone from my life and I’m not talking about the people.

    • I remember fighting over the New Yorker when one of her stories appeared. Fighting over the New Yorker, suddenly sounds so quaint.
      Betsy

  18. When I found you
    I found me

    I just bought 8 first editions of Beverley Nichols. He writes about cats, gardens, and drinking…in other words, the only things worth reading about.

  19. Sedaris, Rooney, Bombeck and Fulghum.

    I bow to them, worship them, have shrines built to honor what they do and have done. The only one I have read and reread, which has leaned against the box of Kleenex next to my bed for years, is Robert Fulghum’s, All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

    I would give up ice cream or sex to write something as iconic as that. Oh wait, my husband says I already did that years ago.

    • I know you all want to say it, so I will.

      So I add, under separate cover, Betsy’s The Forest for the Trees. I’m not sucking up; it would be pointless because she has already said no. If a blog could be dog-eared this one would. Like the Bible, Tree’s should be in the drawer of every writer’s bedside table.
      Just the thought of meeting her would send me to the bathroom with stomach cramps for days.

      There, I said it.

      • I have it. It’s bookmarked to one particular chapter, but I occasionally flip through it and just start reading – it’s that good. Oh, and…, I keep hoping I somehow fit the chapter on “The Natural.”

      • Agreed! I can’t believe I owned it almost ten years before I read it. But it was perfect timing; I had to grow up and be ready for it.

      • That was me above – Anonymous. New phone – my info isn’t logged in to all my usual places.

        But, more proof of Forest’s value. It brought me to this wonderful blog and has connected me with all of you. And between Betsy and all of you I started blogging. I am enjoying all of it immensely!

      • Funny – I had Stephen King’s book, “On Writing” for about the same amount of time before I read it. When I got Betsy’s book – I was desperate for an insider’s thoughts on how all this was supposed to work and I recall setting it on my bedside table and all day it was like a Christmas present, waiting for me to unwrap it. Like you, I showed up here after reading it and it’s one of the very few blogs I have stuck to and read on a daily basis. (except my own – haha)

  20. Oh yeah… I love my favorites, namely,
    Carole Maso. Her attitude has saved my writing life many times. Her lastest book is absolutely incomprehensible. Can’t wait for the next one.
    Anna Gavalda.
    Amelie Nothomb
    Michael Cunningham
    Caroline Knapp, but she’s dead. I saved her NYT obituary, in her book.
    There’s more, but these are the top five.

    • Caroline Knapp: yes. I had to get off the train when I happened upon her NYT obit to cry. Can’t bring myself to read the last book but did clip an article written by a friend of hers in O magazine that had a great bittersweet pic too. Uh.

      • Have you read “Let’s Take The Long Way Home” by Gail Caldwell? It’s a gorgeous memoir about her (best) friendship with Caroline.

  21. Anne Lamott, Michael Ondaatje, Katrina Kenison, Dani Shapiro.

  22. Lisa Lutz, Jasper Fforde, and Janet Evanovich.

    I won’t name the authors who have dropped off this list, but they’re all writers who started off writing funny books and then got serious.

    Please never change, Lisa, Jasper, and Janet!

  23. I love posts like these: I always discover new reading material. Michael Connelly. I had a reason to be in LA once. I walked to Angel’s Flight, the title and setting for one of his mysteries. The little railway was so much smaller than he made it in his book. Standing at the bottom of it, I could see the old LA Times building where he worked. It fueled me for a couple of years.

  24. Adult: Jonathan Franzen
    YA: Franny Billingsley

    • Yes, I’m pretty addicted to JF too.
      As an adult I won’t allow myself to read YA except for the books of my youth, which I keep memorial copies of. The 60’s covers alone fascinate.

  25. Anne Lamott, Terry Pratchett, Robert B. Parker (not so sure about his heir apparent, but we’ll see), Zoe Sharp, Alexandra Sokoloff, Gary Corby, Jeff Somers, Jim Butcher, Betsy Lerner, Tom Holt, Laurie R. King, Cornelia Read . . . and, and, and . . .

    It’s a good thing I work in a library, or I’d be living in an alley in a paperback hut.

  26. Well, I feel like a dumbass who only reads the labels on liquor bottles. So many of you here mention writers I’m not familiar with, and I sure respect this group.

    I’ve had favorites in the past, and was cocked and locked for their latest. But my tastes changed, and now it’s not the writer, but what I read about a story idea, or a character, or the way that writer can turn a phrase. If a writer can touch me in some way, they’ve got me.

    I don’t know much, but I know this: the better the stuff that I read, the better the stuff that I write.

    • My first thought when I started reading the names was …well I’m sure as shit stupid, who are all these famous writers? I read People Magazine for the book reviews does that count?

      “…the better the stuff that I read, the better the stuff that I write”
      I’ll drink to that.

    • I only recognize a handful of the authors too Frank! But this is also how I find good new authors to read!

  27. It varies. Steinbeck for a long while. Faulkner. Harper Lee. Tom Robbins for whimsy. Jim Harrison. Barbara Kingsolver. Russell Banks. Jhumpa Lahiri. Raymond Carver.
    I’m protective of signed copies and books that were gifts, but other than that, they come and go like the wind, words that arrive and depart on a morning train.
    And one last thing, whether it means anything or not: I love hardcover books. I could be living on potatoes, beans and frozen fern greens flattened by the snow, and I’d still roll up my loose coins to buy a long awaited book by a favorite author.

  28. In my late 20’s it was Stephen King. I just looked over my shoulder at my bookcase. I have still have all the books I purchased, and boy, talk about some stinkers he wrote … it was only after I read his book “On Writing” I understood why his writing got so bad. (Scope??)

    Even though I have favorites today, I won’t buy just anything written by one of them. I’ve not purchased blindly like that since Stephen King. Dorothy Allison, Kaye Gibbons, Alice Hoffman, Wally Lamb, and Rick Bragg are some favorites where I’m always on the lookout for something new, and hopeful they won’t disappoint.

    • And…forgot to add… most of these haven’t written anything in years, so I’m always on the lookout for someone new to love. I did see that Wally Lamb has a book coming out sometime this year. (We Are Water).

  29. ian mcewan, philip roth, don delillo

  30. Claudia Emerson, Leah Hager Cohen, Talvikki Ansel, Robin McKinley (until very recently), Margaret Ronald, Emma Bull, Charles Wright, Jane Austen, and if I’m allowed a book rather than an author “The Outermost House” by Henry Beston

  31. I’m in the Michael Ondaatje camp. I foist his memoir “Running in the Family” about growing up in Sri Lanka upon students, friends, family members. Exquisite prose and photographs (including the author’s jacket photo!).

  32. Ivan Doig, Jim Harrison, Kate Atkinson, Richard Russo. I buy everything they write, in hardback.
    For mysteries, I am stuck in the early 1900s. I like Jacqueline Winspear’s series and Charles Todd. When I want to laugh, Christopher Buckley.
    But reading everyone else’s authors here makes me want to go back to Alice Munro again. And Caroline Knapp. And, and, and…

  33. 40 years of John Irving

  34. Ina Garten

    I’m crazy about cookbooks (and cooking). My copy of her latest one (and several for holiday gifts) arrived a few days ago and it’s already dogeared and peppery from last night when I made her sweet potato puree–a dry run for Thanksgiving dinner.

  35. Anna Quindlen (but only her nonfiction), Joan Didion, Ann Lamott, Bill Bryson, Ann Hood, a few others.

  36. Steinbeck. But, no new work… 😦

  37. Christopher Hitchens. I bought his latest (and, sadly, last) book, Mortality, two days after it came to my local B&N and read it clean through twice before the weekend was over.

    To a lesser degree, Sherman Alexie. My paperback copy of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight In Heaven is worn and shabby, the pages coffee-stained and the spine broken. It’s a collection of short stories and while all are beautifully written and powerful, there are two especially that keep bringing me back.

    My deepest and as yet unspoken wish is that someday one person will cherish something I’ve written and published the way I cherish the words of Alexie and Hitchens.

  38. John Crowley and Tana French.

  39. Hilary Mantel, Jeanette Winterson (just “The Passion”), Jack Kerouac (still), Miguel Azana (in Spanish), Cormac MacCarthy (just “Blood Meridian”) and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

  40. Katherine Mansfield, Pete Dexter, Mary Gaitskill, Anne Enright, Kate Atkinson, Liz Strout, Dana Spiotta

  41. Yasmina Khadra, and too much others….

  42. Denis Johnson, Kate Braverman, Pete Dexter.

  43. I would say John Updike, although I dragged my feet on buying his last few. I will catch on that, out of loyalty. His early work, which I started reading in high school, is kind of why I think of people the way I do.

  44. Don DeLillo is on the top of my awesome list. As is Cherie Priest, and Franny Billingsley. I know, odd combo!

  45. These days jonathan franzen and dave eggers…..eggers killed me with what is the what and zeitoun…..they hooked me

  46. I laugh like crazy at Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. I enjoy other authors, but laughing is the Balm of Gilead for me. Laughing out loud is true joy in itself.

  47. Allegra Goodman, Kate Atkinson, Eleanor Lipman, Nick Hornby. Working my way through Trollope (Anthony.)

  48. david rakoff. i could quote entire paragraphs from each of his books i’ve read them so many times.

  49. Barrie Jean Borich. She’s got a new book coming out from The Univ of Nebraska Press this season. Her language is astounding.

  50. yes, David Thorndill.
    Read CABO ROJO and Yales from the Confessional several times.

  51. Ian McEwan & Alice Munro. I mark their release dates on my calendar.

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