• 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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I See My Light Come Shining

When people discover that I work in publishing, they always ask what I’m reading, and the answer is pretty much always manuscripts. When aspiring writers ask me about going into publishing, I warn them about this occupational hazard. It has always seemed to me that if you wanted to be a great writer, you had to read the greatest writers. Some years back, I was reading the sixth or seventh draft of a book that was never going to find its pulse and I thought: I’m going to go to my grave having read this manuscript multiple times and having never read Crime and Punishment. That night, I went home and started Crime and Punishment. One of the all time great reading experiences of my life.

What do you want to read before you die?

18 Responses

  1. Hey Betsy, so good to have you back. After seeing that corn beef sandwich for so long, I almost went out and got my first one in years. I just had a psychic experience on your blog. When you said to read the great writers, I thought, well, I haven’t read all that many, but I HAVE read Crime and Punishment – and there it was…you read it too! Reading Murakami now. Hope you’re good, love, Kyler

  2. I’ve read many, many great works but I’ve never read anything by Joan Didion, Philip Roth, Dostoevsky, Margaret Atwood, on & on. Woefully underexposed I’m afraid despite reading hundreds of book a year. How is that?

  3. Gravity’s Rainbow. What if I don’t like it?
    Moby Dick. A commitment I’m not sure I can make.

  4. Ulysses. I just couldn’t make it all the way through back in school. Maybe now that I’m older and have more real-world experience…and more patience.

  5. I second Ulysses and throw in Tristam Shandy.

  6. Related to your story:

    High school, junior year. Advanced Literature: honors elective. Many years ago.

    Crime and Punishment. Dostoyevsky. I can NOT do this. Procrastinate. Leave the country?

    Fifty pages in. And then, something clicks.

    I agree. One of the greatest pieces of literature. Ever.

    I’ve read it twice since then.

    Sent from my iPhone


  7. So many books, so little time…left?
    To be honest I don’t read books…much. Magazine articles, newspapers, and on line (real) is my thing. Maybe that’s why I write what I write and compile what I compile into books with lots of quick reads about what it’s like to be a woman who has traveled the roads I have traveled.

  8. There’s not room here to list them all. There’s not time left to read them all.

    Your question, Betsy, troubles me deeply.

    When the Soviet secret police came to take Isaac Babel away, supposedly he said, “But I’m not finished yet.”

    But he was.

  9. I’ve always believed I should read at least one of Faulkner’s works, considering my southern roots and what I write. I’ve heard of many of his titles, so I bravely checked out a list of his “best work” and thought, well, let me see about The Sound and the Fury. I struggled. Then I felt better once I saw this, “the book is both a notoriously arduous and disturbing read, whose often disorienting narration requires patience and persistence…”

    I have persistence, but not much patience. I’ve looked at his other work, and everything I read about those books is similar…stream of conscious narrative, one with the longest sentence ever written (1,300 words in the sixth chapter of Absalom! Absalom!) and “his use of the interior monologue, multiple narrators and displacement of time…”

    Some of his “best” work sounds like a lot of…head hopping.

  10. I will go after Crime and Punishment then, but as an audiobook. It’s how I managed to read Les Miserables and Hunchback. I love the audiobook option. Thanks for the suggestion.

  11. I want to finish Don Quixote

  12. Because if the times we live in, I’m dipping into the “rest home” list starting with The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. It’s so accessible, yet terrifying in its timeliness and its similarity to now. It feels like a warning to me; that I better get my ass in gear to hit the forest and resist. It’s a really good book.

  13. I’ve kept the “Must Read” list from an AP English class, circa 1970 – a multi-page compilation of books, poems, plays that numbers close to 200 titles. I’m still reading my way through it. My goal is to read every one and have the list buried with me.

  14. Dear Betsy,
    You’ll Love “Crime & Punishment.” Moves Faster Than Some Other Dusty Titles I Could Name. My Greatest reading Experience Was Reading “Remembrance Of Things Past,” In My Old Room On Periodic Visits From Boston To The Family Farm. It’s Like Having Lived Another Life. Like Reading, “Berlin Alexanderplatz,” & Then Watching Two Episodes a Night Of Fassbinder’s Masterpiece Adaptation. (On Lousy VHS, Not The Primo Criterion Edition Out Now. My Two Pillars Of Reading Are The King James Bible & The Collected Shakespeare. They Are Always What I’m reading When I Take Time Out To Read Whatever Else Must Reads, Of Which There Are Many. Especially As One Writer Leads To Another On The Cosmic Tree.
    Enjoy, & May Nothing Distract You, Except The Next great Book You See into Print! Semper Fi, Sean Andrew Heaney

  15. “Sundown/Yellow Moon/I Replay The Past/I Know Every Scene By Heart/They All Went By So Fast. . .”

  16. The entire Poetic Edda, cover to cover. Working on it. Also, the Samarillion, which has been sitting in my book shelf, along with the other Tolkien works that I’ve yet to read, for over a year now. I want to read it, because Tolkien was a brilliant writer… Its just that his books aren’t your everyday light reading. It’s something you have to prepare yourself for. 😉

  17. The Complete Calvin and Hobbs. Missed it mostly when the strip ran.

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