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    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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Don’t You Remember You TOld Me You Loved Me Baby?

I’ve never believed in “best of” lists until now. Congratulations to George Hodgman and Patti Smith. Thank you Maureen Corrigan of NPR. Fucking A.

Bettyville: A Memoir

by George Hodgman

Hardcover, 278 pages

In Bettyville, George Hodgman, who had a major career in editing and publishing in New York City, writes of moving home to Paris, Missouri to care for his elderly mother, Betty, who’s never acknowledged that her son is gay. In the opening scene, Hodgman is roused by a fretful Betty in the middle of the night: “[h]ere she is, all ninety years of her, curlers in disarray, … peeking into our guest room where I have been mostly not sleeping. It is the last place in America with shag carpet. In it, I have discovered what I believe to be a toenail from high school.” Like Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, Hodgman’s Bettyvillecaptures the exhaustion, sorrow and moments of absurdity involved in caring for elderly loved ones.

M Train

M Train

by Patti Smith

Hardcover, 253 pages

Unlike her first memoir, the now classic, Just Kids, which was all about the thrill of “becoming,” Patti Smith’s incantatory M Trainis mostly about the challenge of enduring erosion and discovering new passions (like detective fiction and a tumbledown cottage in Rockaway Beach, Queens). Smith, of course, is a “kid” no longer. She’s now 68 and she’s suffered a lot of losses, including the deaths of artist Robert Mapplethorpe, who was her partner in crime in the Just Kids years, and her husband, musician Fred “Sonic” Smith, who died suddenly in his 40s. “They are all stories now,” says Smith, thinking of these and other deaths. The narrative of M Train, fittingly, is fragmented and incantatory, more like Smith’s distinctive song lyrics. At bottom, though, both of Smith’s memoirs tell a haunting story about being sheltered and fed, in all senses, by New York City.

12 Responses

  1. Hell. Yes. My husband is reading M Train, and he’s doing that thing where he’s telling me about the book all along and I’m glaring at him to shush because I’ll read it myself!

    Being from small town Missouri, I LOVED Bettyville. And not for nothing, George Hodgman is charming as all get out in his interviews.

  2. And just yesterday “Bettyville” made my Christmas Shopping Gift List. (I’m no NPR, but still . . . ). It’s a great book.


  3. We remember that we love YOU Betsy Lerner

  4. Reblogged this on Edie Everette Cartoons Blog and commented:
    Betsy Lerner’s writing is immediate sort of like reading Hubert Selby Jr.’s Last Exit to Brooklyn. You should check out her blog! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Exit_to_Brooklyn

  5. And just the other day, someone was asking me, “What do you want for Christmas?” Well, duh. Books.

    Bettyville will be apropos for me at this time in my life. Mom’s not ninety – she’ll be eighty at her next b’day – but since Dad died, I’m discovering I never really knew my mother. There are times lately when I feel very off kilter about something she’ll do, and I’ll think, “wow, I never knew Mom .

    But, either way – YAY for these books!

    • Dang it. The comment field here didn’t like my “insert revelation” with the arrow thingies around it. So, the sentence is supposed to read, “wow, I never knew mom (insert revelation).”

  6. No doubt you’re at the top of some pretty incredible people’s ‘best of’ list yourself, Betsy. Congratulations!

  7. I wrapped up M Train as a gift to me on Christmas. Can’t wait to devour it.
    Also, Patti remains a hero. Apparently, she surprised everyone by closing the U2 Paris show a few nights ago. They say it was amazing. I know she loves Paris. Stick it to ’em, Patti. Rock on, girl!

  8. I heard George H. on NPR when Bettyville first came out and was just sucked in by his personality. I sat in the garage for 5 minutes so I wouldn’t miss the end of the interview. Small town girl here too (back in the day) so it all sounded so familiar. Bettyville is on my Christmas list and M Train is on my book shelf already.

  9. Congratulations, and Happy Holidays! (All of them.)

  10. Well hell. I didn’t know you were blogging again. My inbox failed to inform me of this. You wrote some post long, long ago about how you were no longer going to blog and I guess I’d just accepted that lying down but I came on here nostalgically just now and here you are, blogging again. Huzzah!

    I’m reading M Train. I’m reading it and I’m loving it and I’m thinking that Patti’s mind is a beautiful thing. I went to the signing to get this book. She ended up playing us a little concert instead of inscribing our books but that’s okay; I prefer the memory of her stalking across the stage, and the deep drone of her voice in the microphone reverberating now against the walls of my head. I’d much rather have that than the ink of a pen guided by her hand across paper. Almost anyone could have that— anyone who tried, at least. What I have is a moment in history. A deliberate moment. There was nothing anonymous or compulsory about it, and yet, it was so small in the grand scheme of things, in the massive amount of all that happens within any day, any week, any month. It could have been anyone, I suppose: the random trio that boards your subway car and gives you an impromptu performance— one which stirs you from your thoughts and your makes you look up, maybe even smile, dig in your pockets, clap your hands, feel grateful to be alive and to be there and not three minutes ago, still waiting on the platform in silence. It wasn’t anyone, though, and that part is actually key. She doesn’t strike me as someone too terribly aware of her celebrity and yet she must be to have given the audience a gift like that. To have a platform and to use it wisely, that is success. That is gratitude. That is living.

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    Hi Betsy,

    Forgive me if I am speaking out of place, but I am just wondering if you are aware (or intended??) the line below to appear in your blog:

                          Thank you Maureen Corrigan of NPR. Fucking A.

    I am writing to mention it to you in case, for whatever reason, you wern’t aware of it.

    Diane Short An Occasional Reader

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