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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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This Could Be Love Because I’ve Had the Time of my Life

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I’m in Paris, MO with my dear friend and client George Hodgman. George and I were editorial assistants at SImon & Schuster a hundred years ago. You may remember that I was a ripe 26 when I “broke into” publishing. I was so determined to “make it” that I didn’t want to hang out with the assistants who really didn’t give a shit, or were chronic complainers, or headed to law school. I wanted to befriend the ones who really wanted to become editors, and I wanted to learn from them.

I knew George was a brilliant writer when I read his flap copy. He had flare. He turned a phrase. In that single column that graces the inside flap of a book, he could make you want to read a book about mitochondria. I stalked him and we became friends. He went on to become an editor of prize winning and bestselling books, an extension of his instincts and brilliant editing.

When George finally produced some pages of his own, I wasn’t surprised to find them moving, hilarious, elegant. Those pages became the beloved memoir, Bettyville. Last night in Columbia, MO, as the centerpiece of a monthlong “One Read” program, George gave a keynote speech to a packed auditorium. He told the crowd of 600 people what it was like losing his beloved mother, Betty. He talked about caregiving and aging and community and kindness. He did it all with flare and sweetness and his wicked sense of humor. Being part of the standing ovation was a singular thrill, watching my beloved friend embraced by his community. At the Q&A, a woman came up to the microphone and asked if she could give him a hug. “No!” George said.

If you haven’t read Bettyville yet, you are in for a treat. Love from Paris, MO.

What’s your favorite memoir?

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8 Responses

  1. Good for you, George! Way to support your friend, Betsy…love to hear about such things.

  2. “What’s your favorite memoir?”

    I thought this would be an easy question to answer, but it’s not. It’s impossible for me to pick only one. Furthermore, the boundaries between fiction, poetry, history, and memoir are sometimes blurred, with the best of one genre having many qualities of another. That said, my favorite memoirs are “Man’s Search for Meaning,” “The Sun Also Rises,” “The Changing Light at Sandover,” “The Liar’s Club,” “The Rings of Saturn,” “Dispatches,” “Rambler American,” and “High Street: Lawyers, Guns & Money in a Stoner’s New Mexico.”

  3. You’re right about George Hodgman and Bettyville. I read it a few months ago, and fell in love with his writing – and his mother. It’s definitely one of my favorite memoirs. I don’t read a lot of them, but two others I loved, which are linked in some way to me are Lucy Grealy’s AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A FACE, and Ann Patchett’s TRUTH AND BEAUTY.

    I want to read DISPATCHES FROM PLUTO – but if I buy another book, I’m going to have to add on a room.

  4. “If Only You People Could Follow Directions” by Jessica Hendry Nelson is my current favorite. No wasted words and I like her style and honesty.
    Almost all of Bukowski’s books are memoirs I enjoy.
    The memoir that effected me the most, though, is “Ringolevio” by Emmett Grogan.
    And George Hodgman is fortunate to have a friend like you. Is there an Eiffel Tower replicate in Paris, MO?

  5. Betsy, Bettyville has only recently reached these shores. I read this review over the summer and it reminded me that you had blogged about it earlier. Thanks for reminding me again. It sounds great as did the reading.

    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/books-bettyville-a-memoir-by-george-hodgman-b8fw9q93t

  6. Memoirs I’ve recommended during the past year (to my students, fellow writers, and friends): The Iceberg, by Marion Coutts; The Return, by Hisham Matar; The Faraway Nearby, by Rebecca Solnit; H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald; and George’s Bettyville.

  7. I just finished “Lab Girl” by Hope Jehran. It is complex, unexpected, and amazing. I laughed and I cried. No, really.

  8. _Speak, Memory_.

    We should do as well.

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