• 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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THe Tears of a Clown

Question: The last book that made you cry?

Salman Rushdie: I don’t cry when I read, really, though I did cry once while writing the death scene of a character I loved in “Shalimar the Clown.”

I just can’t say anything. But here’s what I’m thinking: Really? You’ve never spilled a tear over someone else’s writing besides your own? A chin quiver? A Sierra Mist? What about when Beth March dies? What about Tess of the D’Urbervilles? What about Jenny Cavalleri?

What books have you bawled over? Four hanky reads? Watcha got?

33 Responses

  1. Wuthering Heights

  2. Fuck that, I don’t cry over stories.

    But, last year. Two fat, surprising, sneaky, shocking, somehow satisfying tears.

    The Moment Before by Suzy Vitello

  3. Les Miserables. Almost made me tear up as much as the ending of Chaplin’s City Lights.

    • I haven’t read Les Miserables, but I did see it in the theater—on Christmas Day, if memory serves. And I was okay until the end, when I was suddenly overcome by these intense, ugly, unstoppable sobs that lasted the entire afternoon and on and off for days beyond that. I have no idea where they came from or what it was that struck so deeply. It’s not like me at all.

      I’d probably cry over the book, too, but now I’m afraid to read it.

      • I finished the book during a rare frost delay while planting trees in east Texas 30 years ago. Had to go out and work with a rough ass, merciless crew. I too had unstoppable sobs. It’d be nice to remember those folks as sensitive, sympathetic, but, uh, no. Not at all.

  4. A Fine Balance nearly did me in entirely. Gorgeous torture.

  5. Blood of the Lamb by Peter DeVries.

  6. Rene Denfield’s THE ENCHANTED made me cry.

  7. I remember the first book that made me cry: Where the Red Fern Grows. Seventh grade? Earlier? Did I cry after reading Old Yeller? Maybe, but I don’t remember. I do remember sobbing after Red Fern and marveling that a book could make me feel so intensely. I just read Evening by Susan Minot, which has been on my shelf forever. I got emotional in spots and deeply pensive afterwards.

  8. I sobbed over “H is for Hawk.”

  9. First book, THE YEARLING. I was eleven. Last book, THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE. There are many sad parts to the book, but there are chapters written from the POV of one dog, Almondine. And there is this one chapter…OMG. Jerk crying like I was eleven all over again.

    • Oh, me, too with THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE. I completely adored that book, and had pretty much forgotten about it!

  10. Cutting for Stone –

  11. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. The entire memoir tore me up. He had the ability to make me laugh and sob simultaneously.

  12. I cried after reading A River Runs Through It and also Middlesex – because I knew I would never be able to write as well as these writers.

  13. Lowenstein, Lowenstein, Lowenstein

  14. The book I know is brilliant but I can’t get more than 10 pages into because of repeated, copious weeping is Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones. Ron Koertge’s Strays absolutely killed me. My pal, Samantha Dunn’s Faith in Carlos Gomez has a scene that guts me every time I read it. Peter Cameron’s Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You (in addition to making me laugh uproariously). Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain. Carolyn Parkhurst’s The Dogs of Babel. (I’m a total sucker for animals as extended metaphor, which some (but not all) of those books feature. Also, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. (Ditto preternaturally smart children.)

  15. Aquarium by David Vann

  16. Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago and Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain.

    I fell in love with Ali McGraw for the first time in Goodbye Columbus. Even she could not save Love Story. Only went the movie because she was in it; I read the book in its entirety despite enduring waves of nausea throughout. The only tears at the end were because it was finally over.

    Years later, the publishing industry once again tried to dupe us with The Bridges of Madison County. I was dumbfounded; too embarassed to tell my friend who gave me the book, gushing with superlatives of praise, that I thought it might be the worst published work that I had ever read.

    Again, even Eastwood and Streep never had a chance to save the meanderings and convolutions of Bridges.

    Ah hell, what do I know?

    Sent from my iPhone


  17. The Lovely Bones.
    As a kid, I didn’t cry when Beth died but I did get sick inside, and felt tears rising, when Amy burned Jo’s manuscript.

  18. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis ripped me to shreds.

  19. If I’m in the blue mood, I can cry over the phone book. (All those people . . . all going to be dead within a hundred years . . . though some will still be voting.)

    In truth, or a reasonable facsimile thereof . . .

    When I was a boy, I cried over THE FOX AND THE HOUND. When I was a young man, I cried over DISPATCHES (I must confess I was drunk).

    I don’t cry over books now, being neither a boy nor a drunk. Still, I’ve been reading a lot of war trash this past year and more, and sometimes weep a tear or two over the insanity of modern slaughter. Stalingrad, anyone?

  20. He actually answered by citing his own book? Blech! I saw him read once at a Moth event, pretty near put me to sleep. Small wonder his own work doesn’t make him cry. He’s like Garth Marenghi…”I’m one of the few people you’ll meet who’s written more books than they’ve read.” I cry pretty easily, Pastrix (Nadia Bolz-Weber) did it, The Divers Clothes Lie Empty (Vendela Vida)…those are just two recents. Oh, and if you don’t know Garth Marenghi…you’re welcome: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EkN8WtFTpE

  21. Books I read over and over as a child — Black Beauty, Old Yeller, The Black Stallion,Charlotte’s Web, etc — I’ve found I can’t read again or I sob like mad. I tried Black Beauty again recently, and as soon as he was off to the cruel owner, I had to stop.

    I cried uncontrollably on a plane while reading The Bridges of Madison County. My mother was dying at the time and Francesca WAS my mother, stuck on that fucking farm, longing for the great love she let go. I cried when Sophie made her final Choice, when Jon Grogan buried Marley under the tree, when Wade has his final encounter with his father in Russell Banks’s Affliction, on and on. My crying list is long. Thankfully.

  22. Sarah’s Key. I had to put it down a many times to wipe and blow. Not a good before bed read; much better home-alone-on-Sunday-afternoon book.

  23. Betsy, why, oh, why is it so good good to cry. Why? I swear we might be from the same family. I swear to god. Thanks. Really and truly, thanks. You just solved every motherfucking plot problem I have in one Betsy golly gee what the fuck are you blind post but I’m not going to be rude to you but it’s kinda simple like this but here we go…
    I swear to god we are related. Thank you.

  24. I was wondering why Betsy didn’t pump M Train. I read the first few pages and figured she must have thought it was as poorly written as I did. I read another twenty and wished for a editor. Then all of a sudden I was caught in a slipstream I hadn’t seen coming. What a trip getting a bit of access to that mind. Brilliant. I’m already wishing I could read it again but I can’t bring myself to finish the last pages because I’m afraid then it will be over forever.

  25. It doesn’t matter how many times I read it, the end of A Farewell to Arms makes me sob every time.

  26. This morning on the train I reached the part in The Naked and the Dead where Gallagher gets the news that his wife had died and sad on the Red Line to Downtown and 95th and I looked out the window and it was still not too light out, a gray morning and early, and in the train window I saw reflected the interior of the car. A Michael Jordan store of some kind is opening on State Street just a couple blocks from where I work and the interior of the car was nicely tricked out as an ad for the store, and the outside of the car was wrapped, too, and I looked at all this and thought of Rose who’s been dead over ten years and David who’s been dead going on fifteen and the other David who’s been dead over twenty, and stand clear of the closing doors. And I thought of all the people lined up outside the Michael Jordan store for the past few days, they brought folding chairs and coolers, store don’t open till Saturday and word is people are looking to buy quick and resell at high markup, sure to be some shooting elsewhere in the city over that, and in The Naked and the Dead Gallagher is home when he’s still a kid before the war and his dad is out of work and drunk and smashes the cheap framed picture and knocks Gallagher’s mom to the floor and this evening it was raining on State Street and the line of people were wet in the gray and not budging an inch, that store opens in the morning, if this train is too full, there’s another directly behind, it’s the Red Line, it runs 24/7, carries the naked and the dead.

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