Monday, September 15, 2008

Cross that bridge when you get to it

Although I am actually not old enough to remember the Boer War, I admit, I am kind of fascinated by by contract bridge.

In my all-time favorite book, "The Secret History," Donna Tartt writes about how there was once a bridge fad at (fictional) Hampden College, to the point where bridge rooms were set up and devoted to the game, with tables featuring the four card suits carved into them. The fad died and no one took the tables away, and the rooms end up being used only for drug deals and secret trysts. (Or for discussing the weird murderous habits of your Greek-class pals, but I digress.)

Tartt's point is well-taken: Bill Gates and Warren Buffett love it, but realistically, bridge is never likely to come back amongst college students or anyone younger than 50 (if that). But newspapers still run bridge columns and old folks get irked when said columns are messed with. (Or when they're called "cranky retirees" -- scroll down for that.)

Bridge sounds so complicated, too -- I fear that it's one of those games, like "Settlers of Catan," where you need to play it with people who love it and understand it rather than pick it up on your own. (Friends of mine play "Settlers," which Rob and I have dubbed "Cuttlefish of Satan" for our own weird reasons. I haven't tried it yet, but plan to eventually.)

This New Yorker article from last year takes a fascinating look at the game, and inspired me to buy this book: "The Backwash Squeeze and Other Improbable Feats: A Newcomer's Journey into the World of Bridge."


Florinda said...

Everything you ever wanted to know about contract bridge, and probably a whole lot more - the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) website.

I worked for this organization for six years, which is the only reason I even know it exists.

arajane said...

Okay Gael, Chris and I will be coming over sometime soon with our Settlers of Catan to teach you and Rob (and Kelly!) the game. It's the best!

Tempest said...

My family runs the #1 Duplicate Bridge Club in the US (located in NJ). I'm sure that officially makes me one big geek. I'll say this about Bridge, though...few things have challenged my mind the way Bridge has - great for brain power. One more haven't lived until you've seen 85-year-old women bitch-slap each other over cards. Good times...good times...

Deanna said...

But newspapers still run bridge columns and old folks get irked when said columns are messed with. (Or when they're called 'cranky retirees...')

Hah! That's one of the funniest things of yours I've ever read! Well done!

And Settlers? I don't think it's particularly complicated, but I think you have to be one of those gaming kinds of people to find it interesting enough to pay enough attention to play well.

I am not one of those people.

Hp0 said...

My hubby plays Settlers (and all it's various versions) and has tried to get me to play. I've played and hate it. It's long, it's drawn out and it just goes ON and ON and ON. I think it's one of those games you either love or hate.

Laura in PA said...

Hey Gael - like you, I'm an expat Minnesotan who thinks nostalgically about the '70s and '80s. Love Test Pattern (though I liked it better when it was just your blog). I can't even imagine how popular bridge was in the '40s and '50s. My mother has been playing with roughly the same group of women since around 1970, every Thursday evening. I recently found out that back in the '70s, those ladies referred to bridge night as "mental health night." Who knew?!?

Anonymous said...

Ooh! The Secret History!!!

Gael -

Have you got any suggestions for anything like this that I might read? I like the 'Ripley'-esque qualities, but haven't found anything else [other than Joanne Harris' Gentlemen and Players].

Anonymous said...

anonymous, I'm not Gael but I'll toss out a recommendation for "Special Topics in Calamity Physics." I loved "Secret History" and "Gentlemen and Players," and this was along those lines.

Anonymous said...

Hi,Anonymous #2 -

Sorry about such the long delay in responding to your suggestion, but thanks for the suggestion.

It's waiting for my pickup at the local library branch, coincidentally in the same state the author is from.