• 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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Could It Be That It Was All So Simple Then

Guys, guys, guys, guys. It’s Book Expo in New York. I just tripped over Scott Turow. I didn’t get invited to the Malcolm Gladwell party. I didn’t get invited to my own publisher’s party. That I take as a badge of pride. I ran into a book rep I haven’t seen since the Fifties, but he’s still wearing that bolo and I still remember Miami. I saw a machine that makes books on demand.  I saw a vampire in broad daylight. I saw my beloved Japanese agent and she was wearing a gorgeous floral skirt that she bought at thrift shop, then corrected herself: Vintage. I met with a mother-daughter team who sell audio books. When I told the daughter she looked like Kim Kardashian she seemed to be insulted. I wandered through the booths thinking about all the publishing jobs I had, all the bosses I didn’t blow, all the massive excitement I used to feel helping books come into the world and learning how to galvanize my passion.  Or how I could get high off the smell of books fresh out of the carton. Or the party I once threw for a first collection of stories, decorating my apartment with candles and peaches.

Were those the days?

31 Responses

  1. This is so poignant, Betsy! I came of age as a writer when all one had to do was write some good pages and send them to an editor/publisher (sans agent, though I later got it one). It was, as you say, all so sweet!

  2. I handed my Latin materials over to someone who actually loves teaching Latin. I wrote a post that gave the finger to the parents I really want to show the finger.

    That was nice.

    But I also handed my English materials over to someone who loves English, and is excited and inspired to take over my classes and my students, and I thought it would be nice. Isn’t this what I always wanted? But I cried.

    And cried. But in a good way.

  3. I’m going to have that song in my head all day now, Betsy. And that puppy. Enjoy your day at the fairground!

  4. Yep, those were the days. These are days too but don ‘t they seem different? Or indifferent? Still, there are few things better than the smell of ink on paper. I just love it. When I walk into a pressroom, I inhale like I did in college, ahhhh.

  5. I wish I could say the days are now but I don’t think there’s any way of knowing, really.

    As Andrew Bernard recently said, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good ol’ days before you’ve actually left them.”

  6. Thanks for another wonderful post Betsy. Loved it.

  7. The good old days are foreplay for the future. It comes it goes and it leaves you wondering,was it good for you too.

  8. Sure sounds like it to me!

  9. These are the days that we’ll examine in the future while asking if they were the days.

    This is either optimistic, depressing, or a sign of bad observational skills.

  10. Aww Betsy, did you post that puppy photo just for me? Some people have to block porn sites from their computers; I have to block Lab Rescue.com.

    And I first read your first sentence as: you tripped Scott Turow. Yes!!

  11. ” It’s better to burn out than it is to rust.” The flame’s still glowing.
    (Out in the night, foxfire on a damp log.)

  12. Yeah, those were the days of candles and peaches and the fucknut ability to admire Anne Lamott and enjoy a Jack Reacher novel. Those were days I expected myself to appreciate jerkoff novels like Catcher in the Rye and Great Gatsby instead of wadding them in Kleenex and tossing them at the cat. Those were the days before I grew into my own personal opinion about To Kill a Whiteman’s Burden, and thought that Elie Wiesel was wise because he wasn’t dead. Those were the days when I mistook pretention for quality, quality for importance, and importance, I guess, for ‘worth $4.95.’

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. I don’t know. It’s not the days that change. I’m not right more often now, but at least I’m wrong on my own terms.

    Fuck peaches and candles. Books fresh out of the carton smell like disappointment, because they’re my books and it’s my carton. But for all that I hate this business, there’s better shit getting published today than there was yesterday. I enjoyed a poem last month. A poem! First time ever, I liked a fucking poem.

    • The Great Gatsby and John Updike: I’m pretty sure that if John Updike were writing today he wouldn’t get published and yes that’s a GREAT thing. John Updike is the most outstanding example of how bad you could be, back in the olden days, and still have a literary career, back when you could write about Africa (Saul Bellow) having set foot there as long as you threw in a lot of white guy mid-life philosophical-sexual longings that resonated with the middle-aged white guys who published books and wrote reviews. Just think of the crap (Phillip Roth) that they shat onto our culture back when they were in charge.

      Poetry? Are people still writing poetry? STILL????

    • What was the poem?

  13. candles and peaches…that sounds like the perfect book party.

  14. These are the days.

  15. Lovely, lovely, lovely. And one day, you will look back with longing on this very moment.

  16. So good to hear your voice. Is it time for another memoir? I’m just saying…

  17. I didn’t recognize “those” days when they were happening in the past, so I probably don’t recognize them now.

    Maybe you get jaded as you get older? Don’t know. Not there yet…

  18. So do you still walk away from BEA with a toteload of free books, or do they just send you a link to download them on your e-reader?

    • I walked away with a toteload of books and probably a damaged rotator cuff.

      Fun, though, because I was a first-timer.

      • Yay–good for you! I’ve only been once, too–several years ago in DC. Thank God the airlines didn’t have the weight limitations they do now. I came home with twenty-something books. They included a signed anniversary copy of The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton: the book that drove me to want to write.

        So glad you enjoyed your experience–I’m sure it was well worth the damaged rotator cuff!

  19. sounds like the end of summer when you stand at the beach where the river crosses the lake, and the water whispers cool. autumn is on the way.

  20. Were those the days?

    I’m a late bloomer, so I can only listen to the stories and wish I could have been part of it then.

  21. yes, those were the days. good thing you didn’t miss them.

  22. Yes, those were the days. Lovely post. It makes me weep.

  23. oh my god i hope those weren’t the days because i’m going to pitch you soon!

  24. Not so fast with the nostalgia! Niles Rogers (60 year-old producer of disco / Bowie in the 1970s) just got Daft Punk a No. 1 hit with “Get Lucky”, a song from their Random Access Memories album (album?), which was created, Rogers said, with the mission of making a record (record?) AS IF THERE WERE NO INTERNET.

    If this signals a touring point in popular culture it should take the book publishing biz only a decade or two to catch up!

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