• 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 said I like it like that I said I like it like that I said I like it like that I said I like it like that


“I don’t suppose I get the six white roses, but thanks all the same. Does this leave you as confused as ever? Sorry, Best, Truman Capote”

This little fragment of a letter cropped up in some old letters and was reported on in the NYT today. It’s hard for me to believe this makes national news, but for me totally. When I was an editorial assistant at Simon and Schuster, the Gerald Clarke biography, ten years in the making, was just coming to fruition. I lovingly transmitted the book into production (known as “Passed for press”). Ever the eager student, I hoped to get an A, and stood nervously as the Managing Editor checked off the components that made the manuscript pass-worthy. More, I went deep into Capote’s work, reading everything, absorbing everything. One night, I dreamed he was my brother, more evil twin, and we shared a Hostess Snowball on a school bus painted brown.

Who is your literary hero?

10 Responses

  1. I’m too much of a Leo to have one of those, but I do admire all the authors who did not gain literary success until late middle age. Their determination and persistence inspires me to continue my own quest to get my manuscripts into print.

  2. John Steinbeck. His books helped me through some very long, hard winters and no two were ever the same, although Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row were close. On the other hand, The Moon is Down (? — right title?) and Travels With Charley are pretty different. My favorites are East of Eden and The Grapes of Wrath — anyone who is only familiar with the movie version of Grapes should read the last 100 powerful pages of the novel and see how soundly it resonates in any time period, including present day.

  3. The first time I stepped into the Algonquin Hotel–thinking of my literary hero, Dorothy Parker–Truman Capote was sitting in the middle of the lobby lounge, holding court.

    The only thing better would have been if Parker herself was there.

  4. I love David Sedaris

  5. Oh, so many. Fitzgerald for a while. Camus for another while. Ondaatje or Eugenides, maybe. I also find Orwell and Zola inspiring. Oddly, all men… I did like the Brontes as a girl, though. THANKS for the question!

  6. The woman from Perthshire and the man from Bangor.

  7. Fante, and William Kennedy for writing Ironweed. I have this bigger the dictionary smarter the person revolt going on in my brain at a constant harmony with the flowers and the oceans and the mountains that tend to esplode. Jacques Roumain’s Masters of the Dew might be one of my favorite books but not because it was written by a slave, but because it was written by someone who is intelligent. I think we have righted ourselves to idiocy. I love these writers.

  8. “Who is your literary hero?”

    Gordon Lish. I was a provincial wannabe, of questionable talent and no notable skill, when he invited me to come to NYC and study in his private classes. I was only vaguely familiar with his name, had no idea he was known as Captain Fiction, didn’t know about any of his writers, hadn’t studied creative writing in any structured situation — if not a tabula rasa, certainly a palimpsest, with three unpublishable novels and two dozen excruciatingly unreadable short stories to my meager credit.

    He was generous with his time and something of a father to me. We corresponded for five years. During that time, he was my first reader for every piece of fiction I wrote.

    He was generous with his instruction, inviting me to attend both the beginners and advanced classes, though I had paid only for the beginners, and on the condition that in the advanced class, I was not to say a word.

    He was generous with books. Shortly after I arrived in New York, I dropped by his office — you could do that in those days, just walk in the building, take the elevator up, and stop at his assistant’s desk first, no security guards or metal detectors to screen you, no day passes to be worn or your jacket or shirt — and he started pulling books, Knopf hardcovers, down from his shelves and pressing them on me — “Here you must read Holland, and Schutt, and Raffel, and Michel, and Christopher, and Murphy, and Kohler, and Rooke, and Richard, and …”, it went on and on. I was looking for work that day and there I was, with all these books to schlepp around Manhattan while I cold-called at various places that were not going to hire me. There was a Doubleday bookstore nearby and I stopped there to beg a bag from the clerk so at least I would have something to carry the books in. And of course I read them all.

    Gordon made a writer out of me. Out of a scribbler he made a writer, and a writer is all I’ve ever wanted to be.

  9. Douglas Adams. His non-fiction. Because he could write throw-away gems in the middle of long sentences, such as this “…a boat so old and dilapidated it was almost indistinguishable from driftwood …” And he’s never sentimental.

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