• 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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Why Can’t You See This Boat is Sinking

When you write about a room, what are the details that make their presence known? A white bowl with gold fish painted on the inside, a gray radiator, New Yorkers from the year one. Nesting tables missing one nest. Do you see them or make them up? To they enhance the story, magnify the themes or characters. A water bottle, a yoga mat, a dictionary stand, the Game of Life. Do you choose the details or do they choose you. That’s a trick question. You choose. Striped curtains of gold and red that fall to the floor and then some.

Is god in the details.

14 Responses

  1. I want details to add, rather than subtract or distract. Yeah
    , God is in the details, and so is the devil. But so is a mood, a picture, a part of a character.

  2. In my Day Job world of interior design, the quality of light (natural or otherwise) within the space is my immediate hook. A cavernous room facing due North is a whole ‘nuther experience from a tiny space facing the Pacific coast, or a below-ground bistro reliant on forms of electric illumination. When I’m toiling away at my WIPs, I imagine both the compass direction of the building and the lighting before I can describe much else.

    As for room details, would you want to hear about the executive house that was so large it included a pond, complete with a bridge, at one end of the living room? The owners were ecstatic that we were able to make that whim a reality.

  3. That radiator Was grey. I remember that. And these curtains cover up the heater vent. They’re too long. My wife likes the solid colored curtains. I like the flower prints. It makes me think of outside. It feels more hopeful, and I don’t feel caged. Life is strange. I still believe, though people call me naive, that God created everything out of himself, so, yeah, god is in the details. Thanks for the life jacket! Betsy.

  4. You choose the details. You are your choices. You are in the details. The details are you.

  5. Describing a room sometimes comes easy as making toast, other times like souffle. When my brain won’t cooperate, I like to look at Pinterest, and then, like playing with paper dolls, I tack on details from what I’ve seen there. I like to add smells – did someone just cook onions?, is it musty from being shut off from the rest of the house? – is it warm, cold, the center of the house or unused?

    I put God in the details, but the devil wins his share too.

  6. I’m with Donna. God and the devil, both.

  7. I’ve never written about a room. I write about people. But I’m being snarky. I don’t mean to be, except when I do.

    Sorry. Been hanging out at Wonkette too much lately. Got my ‘tude all up. Down, boy. Sit. That’s a good boy.

    The trick is always the telling detail. The window on the person, the view of the person, opens best through the concrete object. Sometimes that object is the body — the gesture, the tic, the tone of voice.

    But you spoke of the room. I see it, then I tell of it. I don’t know that the telling works as well — I pause, collect my thoughts, order my words —

    If I make up what I think would be a telling detail to illuminate a character, I don’t think that’s as effective if I take from someone I know, from some situation I can recall to the eye of my mind, and see it in my memory, and harvest from it that which I know will help me create the world I am attempting to create on the page. The room with a view. The plastic Christmas tree she watered for years, not realizing it was plastic. Or did she know all along? The unopened bottle of vodka he kept in the freezer and was found there after he died. Was he saving it for something, or had he not got to it yet?

    The light in through the window, always the light in through the window. Or the room with no window, where the only light is the narrow glimmer come in under the door. Noises come from somewhere outside. Someone filling a watering can at the kitchen sink, someone opening the freezer door.

    I don’t know if god is in the details, or if we and all the rest of the world are the details in god.

  8. I think too much detail is a dangerous thing, but just enough to reveal something about the character(s) … it’s a matter of balance. What stands out? When you walk into a room, what do you notice? A power strip with too many cords snaking into it, a window open to clear the cigarette smoke from the room, no ashtray in sight? Too much focus on the mundane doesn’t reveal much but just serves as fluff. Colors are alright, light, especially natural light, is good. Is the radiator clanging and groaning, the curtains faded or freshly laundered? Detail just for the sake of detail doesn’t do it and forced descriptions (the dust on an old pair of brown loafers indicated they were not an integral part of his winter outfit) fall flat but something out of the ordinary captures my attention (Over near the south facing window a mannequin was set up in a receptive doggy style position with a dusty old brown shoe glued to its ass. A John Lennon album played in the background.).

  9. What’s in a room can be very telling, i.e, what books does this person read, are the clothes slung over chairs, is the desk cluttered? More than a room per se, its about milieu. Place. You can’t very well write about a bullfighter without placing him in his environment. Or. Farmer. Doctor. Uber driver.

    For a nonfiction writer (that would be me), observation is tantamount to the understanding of a character, what makes him tick, how he/she functions. Description adds richness, helps the reader visualize. Maybe it’s a room, maybe a skating rink or the inside side of a cockpit.

    A rose by any name may be a rose, but you gotta write it’s essence, beautiful smell (god), thorns (devil).

  10. The details? God?
    Which came first? Seeing them or making them ?

  11. Seems to me god is in the earthquake, and the devil in the TV. So yes, I guess that would place god in the details.

    Black Diamond Bay

    Up on the white veranda
    She wears a necktie and a Panama hat
    Her passport shows a face
    From another time and place
    She looks nothin’ like that
    And all the remnants of her recent past
    Are scattered in the wild wind
    She walks across the marble floor
    Where a voice from the gambling room is callin’ her to come on in
    She smiles, walks the other way
    As the last ship sails and the moon fades away
    From Black Diamond Bay

    As the mornin’ light breaks open, the Greek comes down
    And he asks for a rope and a pen that will write
    “Pardon, monsieur,” the desk clerk says
    Carefully removes his fez
    “Am I hearin’ you right?”
    And as the yellow fog is liftin’
    The Greek is quickly headin’ for the second floor
    She passes him on the spiral staircase
    Thinkin’ he’s the Soviet Ambassador
    She starts to speak, but he walks away
    As the storm clouds rise and the palm branches sway
    On Black Diamond Bay

    A soldier sits beneath the fan
    Doin’ business with a tiny man who sells him a ring
    Lightning strikes, the lights blow out
    The desk clerk wakes and begins to shout
    “Can you see anything?”
    Then the Greek appears on the second floor
    In his bare feet with a rope around his neck
    While a loser in the gambling room lights up a candle
    Says, “Open up another deck”
    But the dealer says, “Attendez-vous, s’il vous plait”
    As the rain beats down and the cranes fly away
    From Black Diamond Bay

    The desk clerk heard the woman laugh
    As he looked around the aftermath and the soldier got tough
    He tried to grab the woman’s hand
    Said, “Here’s a ring, it cost a grand”
    She said, “That ain’t enough”
    Then she ran upstairs to pack her bags
    While a horse-drawn taxi waited at the curb
    She passed the door that the Greek had locked
    Where a handwritten sign read, “Do Not Disturb”
    She knocked upon it anyway
    As the sun went down and the music did play
    On Black Diamond Bay

    “I’ve got to talk to someone quick!”
    But the Greek said, “Go away,” and he kicked the chair to the floor
    He hung there from the chandelier
    She cried, “Help, there’s danger near
    Please open up the door!”
    Then the volcano erupted
    And the lava flowed down from the mountain high above
    The soldier and the tiny man were crouched in the corner
    Thinking of forbidden love
    But the desk clerk said, “It happens every day”
    As the stars fell down and the fields burned away
    On Black Diamond Bay

    As the island slowly sank
    The loser finally broke the bank in the gambling room
    The dealer said, “It’s too late now
    You can take your money, but I don’t know how
    You’ll spend it in the tomb”
    The tiny man bit the soldier’s ear
    As the floor caved in and the boiler in the basement blew
    While she’s out on the balcony, where a stranger tells her
    “My darling, je vous aime beaucoup”
    She sheds a tear and then begins to pray
    As the fire burns on and the smoke drifts away
    From Black Diamond Bay

    I was sittin’ home alone one night in L.A.
    Watchin’ old Cronkite on the seven o’clock news
    It seems there was an earthquake that
    Left nothin’ but a Panama hat
    And a pair of old Greek shoes
    Didn’t seem like much was happenin’,
    So I turned it off and went to grab another beer
    Seems like every time you turn around
    There’s another hard-luck story that you’re gonna hear
    And there’s really nothin’ anyone can say
    And I never did plan to go anyway
    To Black Diamond Bay

  12. This is a long over due “thank you” to Betsy Lerner for your book, The Forest for the Trees. Was very helpful to my writing career. Thanks again!

  13. God was in the details last night in Alabama, for sure. The tiniest of numbers yielded a seismic shift. Red to blue. Wow.

    • Yeah. I mean, I’m in shock, in a real good way. I Know it wasn’t what I was expecting, but women made a difference and I hope it’s a sign of things to come.

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