Skip to main content


October 31, 2008

Laura Pedersen: Buffalo Gal

Posted by carol
Today's guest blogger is Laura Pedersen, who shares some of her favorite book club stories. I've had the pleasure of knowing Laura for years, since the publication of her novel Beginner's Luck about teenage card sharp Hallie Palmer. Her stories and one-liners always leave me laughing. Now, with her funny, sassy memoir Buffalo Gal, readers can get to know her too. For the record, I learned a lot more about Laura reading this book --- and yes, I laughed a whole lot too.

I enjoy book clubs because they head in the opposite direction of technology, most being as old fashioned as a 1920s sewing circle or ice cream social. There's usually an in-person gathering with good talk and good refreshments. Members don't send an avatar instead of their actual person, or contribute their comments via MySpace or Facebook or Twitter. No one posts a video on YouTube of themselves reading the book while in the bathtub. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to be the guest at one of these events and other times I appear via speakerphone, a small Space Age technology that's allowed. (In person is better because there are usually delicious baked goods.)

While discussing Buffalo Gal with book groups in the Snow Belt we inevitably end up telling a few storm stories, about the time we were hopelessly lost and just before freezing to death found a clothesline leading to the house. In upstate New York we also talk about the history of the area. With its meteoric rise and unfortunate fall, all in the short space of a hundred years, Buffalo is a fascinating Rust Belt drama, probably better suited to a Puccini opera, but living there you tend not to notice since you're existing in the eye of the hurricane, or blizzard, such as the case may be.

Outside of Buffalo readers like to talk about how we lived during the 1970s --- canning fruits and vegetables and how in summertime kids left the house in the morning and weren't seen again until dinner. This was not only BC (before cable) but before video games. We laugh about the days when there weren't any cell phones, answering machines, call waiting or caller ID and you could say that you'd been trying to call someone for weeks, even though you hadn't. It seems like more people used to have vegetable gardens in the backyard, and all the tomatoes and zucchini arrived the third week in August. It was the only time of year people locked their doors in the suburbs, afraid that someone would dump a box of squash into the garage in the middle of the night.

Talk also turns to politics. When I started writing Buffalo Gal I thought it would be a nostalgic look back to a time when we were mired in recession, an energy crisis, and an unpopular war (Vietnam). But now we're back in a recession, an energy crisis, and an unpopular war (Iraq). I hope that I didn't jinx anything.

Best of all, folks in book clubs have their own terrific stories. Last week a woman told about a funeral where half the mourners got lost between the service and the graveyard, and had to be rescued by state troopers. Another woman had her grandfather's ashes temporarily impounded at the Canadian border. One member could actually sing the entire Dr. Pepper jingle --- very impressive because it's one those things like the national anthem and assorted holiday songs where you think you know the whole thing but after the first verse it turns out you don't. If I start writing all these down I'll soon have the makings of a brand new book.

---Laura Pedersen