giovedì, maggio 30, 2019

Little Men & Jo's Boys by Louisa May Alcott

When I requested at Wordsworth Editions Little Men & Jo's Boys
by Louisa May Alcott  there were various reasons but, the most important: I had still to read these books. When little I read Little Women published by Mursia an italian publishing house. I remember I loved that book so badly and read and re-read it a lot of times.
Then I asked also for the other three but it was a great delusion because they were partially cut here and there and although little I had clear ideas: it was an insult to the intelligence of a person not proposing an unabridged version of the books.
Said that, I simply put them aside and forgot them.

You see: this world is chaotic, for using a nice expression and sometimes we forget how we can be happy and how we can make other people happy.

When you will open this book, you will enter in another dimension where reality is harmonic, people are adorable.
To my point of view, it will be possible for you to forget the stresses you are living with as well rebalancing your existence.

Mrs.Alcott is simply enchanting and her writings, her world adorably beauty and healthy. You can't stop to loving her and how she represents the reality. A reality made by love and built with love.

In a world where children are abused, not taking in consideration or killed, Alcott give us back a reality of normality, of gentle, kindred spirits in love for the potentialities of every single kid, with the desire of helping them to come out, and to become good, decent people thanks to the talents that they have. Not only: mrs Jo March and her husband want to be the difference and to make the difference in the existences of this group of children less lucky than their contemporaries are.

Mrs March in fact with her husband and with the blessing of Mr. Laurence opened a boarding school called Plumfield in Little Men.

In this special place, children, mainly homeless but they could have been abandoned or with heavy familiar situations,  found a new beautiful dimension than the one experienced before and they could call this school but also the owners of this school: home.

The first book starts with the arrival of Nat recommended by Lawrence. The kid was homeless and for a living played with great virtuosism his violin. Pretty soon Nat discovers an universe made by passionate children for reading, for sorting out little or big domestic problems. You will discover a crowded world where harmony, beauty, books, good values, art in general, simple life associated at creativity and productivity as synonime of love and donation are the normality and where people live in a connection of friendship and solidariety.

Of course there are little or big problems but they're sorted out with great intelligence and efficiency.

The second book will also take in consideration the various children that studied in the school, for seeing what happened to them but also the destinies of Mrs. Meg, Mrs. Jo and Mrs.Amy's children as well.
Jo's Boys is the last of the fourth books dedicated at the sisters March.

They're not just positive books, but balms for the soul and they let us see what it means growing up in a happy family; what it meant for mrs and mr March educating with altruism and benevolence their four beautiful little women: Meg, Jo, Beth (disappeared in the first book) and Amy and how they became: beautiful souls at the service of other people, in particular children.  Look, what a happy family can donate to the world. A world seen as inclusivity, a world seen as donation and service.  

Children must be happy. I won't never write this phrase sufficiently enough, because a good and happy kid will become a happy adult. In a good environment, with parents and relatives in grade to be positive people for them, in grade of giving them a good, proper education made by light, optimism, trust, love.
An environment where possibly, books shouldn't be considered weird creatures, but inviting tools for reading much better our reality and where art, nature, the beauty of this world appreciated in every possible shape.

I read and reviewed time ago a biography about Louisa May Alcott and I remain of the idea that the boarding school portrayed, Plumfield, was similar at the domestic situation she lived at home thanks to her dad.

May this book be a wonderful reading for littles and adults.

Highly highly recommended.

I thank Wordsworth Editions for the physical copy of this book.

Anna Maria Polidori

mercoledì, maggio 29, 2019

Fuori di Sé by Sasha Marianna Salzmann

Fuori di Sé by Sasha Marianna Salzmann is a strong book published by Marsilio Editore about identity, racist, anti-semitism, and war. Moscow: Alissa and Anton live in a little apartment before to going away from the Russian capital because of the anti-semitic air breathed that years. Direction Germany, the two won't have a great life in Berlin as well treated pretty bad by their own schoolmates. Anton at some point will disappear and the only trace
left behind by the brother is this postcard from Istanbul.
From there the brother will try all his best for searching for his brother, living a lot of love-stories, discovering in this way his homosexuality, but also seeing a lot of violence; all of this in the big scenery of the XX century.

Beauty, strong, another book you can't lose by Marsilio.

Highly recommended.

Anna Maria Polidori 

sabato, maggio 25, 2019

New York in Four Seasons by Michael Storrings with a Foreword by Kristin Chenoweth

Oh, New York! It's absolutely a magical, chaotic city.
I received yesterday, and read immediately New York in
Four Seasons by Michael Storrings with a Foreword by Kristin Chenoweth. I wanted to write the review yesterday, but a nasty insect stung one of my fingers and I was knock out.

First of all I love this book because it's a book dedicated to the city.
It's an hymn to its traditions, customs, passions, celebrations along the year.
Colored, entirely illustrated, it is a fascinating trip in a city with solid old feasts. Being a crowded city, each ethnic group added some feast and celebrations lived all together, and felt by all the citizens.
This one is the testament of the writer for this city, considering his immense love for New York.

The book is divided per seasons, because New York, in every season speaks a different language, and live different traditions, feasts, and appointments.

Fall is memorable because of the Labor Day Weekend and its picnics; Little Italy celebrates the feast of San Gennaro;  who love theathers and Opera will be happy: shows returns!
Sure New Yorkers can't forget the remembrance every Sept 11th of the terrorist attack at the Twin Towers. Unforgettable the Halloween Parade, the NYC Marathon and curiously, on Oct 4th feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, with the Blessings of the animals at the Cathedral of St. John. Wagons of people bring their little or big animals, dogs, cats, fishes, but also rodents, elephants.
The season closes with Macy's Thanksgiving Parade.

Winter for New Yorkers means Christmas because, without any kind of doubt, the city offers a fascination that no other one is in grade to transmit, maybe thanks also to wagons of movies about the theme, and iconic places that are simply uniques and unreplacable.
The Empire State Building wears the Christmas's typical colors; the Rockefeller Center is famous because of the magnificent Christmas Tree, like also the Plaza, with a big Christmas Tree at the entrance of the hotel. Speaking about shows The Nutcracker is represented every year by the New York City Ballet; Jewish celebrates Hannukah the festival of lights, with a lot of delicious food, in Brooklyn.
The Morgan Library, once the estate of J.P.Morgan, great collector of art and books every year dedicates an entire day of reading at A Christmas Carol by Dickens.
The most important event the arrival of the New Year on Times Square for a lot of people like also the Chinese New Year, felt with great enthusiasm by the community.

Spring brings with it the Saint Patrick's Parade on march but also Macy's Flower Show and the Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue. You could afford to New York City in spring for seeing the Cherry Blossom Festival, or for walking to Park Avenue, discovering wonderful flowers, from tulips to begonias.
The Tribeca Film Festival played an important role after the 9/11 facts and is famous for promoting new filmakers.

Summer is the season of museums, but also of outdoor activities to being spent at the Bronx Zoo or at the New York Aquarium.
Fourth of July becomes a day of great fireworks celebrations; concerts are organized, like also, can you imagine? Central Park Weddings! Oh, it must be so romantic! New Yorkers love spending time in their beaches.

When you will read this book superbly illustrated, funny, a real guide to the most genuine New York City, you will learn much more about what New Yorkers love to do in their city, and what you could do, or visit if you are in a certain season in New York City.

I love the warm, friendly, captivating illustrations. Colors are vivid and they want to transmit the warmth of the city and its people.

I want to remember to my readers that Michael Storrings is also famous for his Christmas's books: Twelve Days of Christmas in New York, A Very New York Christmas, and the Twelve Days of Christmas in America.

I thank the author for the physical copy of the book :-)

Happy Reading!

Highly recommended.

Anna Maria Polidori

The Lost Suitcase Reflections on the Literary Life by Nicholas Delbanco

The Lost Suitcase Reflections on the Literary Life by Nicholas
Delbanco attracted me for two reasons: I met the author at Civitella Ranieri, close to Umbertide years ago and because the famous lost suitcase was the one of Hadley the first wife of Ernest Hemingway and her unlucky trip where she lost all the writing material of her husband. The beginning of the end of their union.

If you love creative writing books this one is for you.
OK, OK, true: this book is a book of essays, but through these essays, you will discover also the meaning of writing for a writer and what it means to write and what it means spending the life in writing. And this book, trust me, itìs incredibly creative.

You can start exactly from the point where Delbanco started his reflections and his original story: how would you represent in words the so-called Lost Suitcase?
Imagine the wife of a potential to be soon great writer at the beginning of the 1920s. Eeeek... She loses all the written material of the husband. Why does it happen?
Give an idea of her, her dress, shoes, make-up (they're still poor, not rich people) the contingent situation; remember that she is on a train and she is arrived at destination. Define when she notices that the suitcase is not close to her. Describe it. Old, new, an item the husband is affectionate at. Give an idea of the content. Now, try to imagine: why did she lose the suitcase?
In the past the couple had hard discussions: can you write down an intimate reason for forgetting the suitcase irrationally somewhere as a sort of punishment for the husband without the desire of forgetting the suitcase at a conscious level? Not a voluntary act, just a resentment lived in her subconscious. Don't be too involute in a too much fantastic situation lived by the couple; be clear and linear.
Can you describe the feelings proved by Hadley, going on? Her terror, her most intimate fears, her inability of seeing clearly what happened. She thinks it must be an error. The suitcase can't be lost. What does she do in the immediate?
Define and imagine the people close to her; she will stop various people for asking for informations; describe the place, describe the people. She leaves the train station.

New scenario that we will call The Meeting: imagine an hypothetic meeting with the husband and his reaction. Try to describe where she meets him. It's a cheap restaurant. Gives a description of place, people, what he is wearing, his face, his hands, his smile, his mood, his enthusiasm; what they eat and drink in the while; what happened after that the communication is given.

Imagine now who found the Lost Suitcase. Who is that person? What happens to all that material?

Imagine and you will also create your short or long tale about a Lost Suitcase.
Just some suggestions for you.

Other chapters are Travel, Art, Death, Judgement, Rumford: His Book, Telephone, Letter to a Young Fiction Writer, A Prayer for the Daughter, Less and More, Scribble, Scribble, Scribble.
I love the last one, because it touches a chord I feel: literature and books are seen as a weird fact for some people. The example of Delbanco a farmer who worked for him.
I remember that when the first free press was born in our area the most enthusiastic ones, at first was shipped home, were old people, with less scholarization but galvanized by the idea of reading something of our city. In other cases people yes, think that books and reading are absolutely a weird land. It's a great pity and I dream a situation like the one of North European Countries where they are all bookworms.

You will notice, in each chapter the ability of the author of digging deep. It's like if Delbanco would want to reach the essence of the meaning of writing in the various and most diversified situation. I am sure that these lessons won't be forgotten.

Delbanco is Robert Frost Professor at the University of Michigan.

Highly recommended.

I thank Columbia University Press for the physical copy of this book.

Anna Maria Polidori

mercoledì, maggio 22, 2019

Nobody's Fool The Life and Times of Schlitzie The Pinhead A biography by Bill Griffith

Nobody's Fool The Life and Times of Schlitzie The Pinhead
A biography by Bill Griffith is an enchanting graphic novel that I think you will find absolutely interesting. Released recently by ABRAMS this one is the story of an abnormal man born supposedly in Bronx in 1901. His name maybe was Simon. His family sold, without too much compassion this kid with evident big problems to a company. At the beginning of XX century, abnormal people, people with great health's problems, it could be a mental illness, it could be a physical problem, became of great attractions, exactly as animals, in American Circus, mainly. Schlitzie, as was soon baptized became a star in this sense. Who knows if he suffered of autism or there were also other more important complications, as reported in this graphic novel; this man didn't speak well at all and was limited in the understanding, although generally a sweet person.
Magistrally "pictured" if I can use this expression, Bill Griffith's first encounter on the big screen with Schlitzie in the production Freaks, a controvertial movie where real people, abormal ones, let show to everyone their existences. The movie was scaring under many ways and also the future cartoonist was heavily touched by what he saw that afternoon at the theater. Most of the time portrayed as a person born in an exotic place of the world, Schlitzie was introduced to the spectators as if he would have been a woman most of the times: he didn't miss a show. He was very requested in circuses and was one of the main attractions. He changed various tutors, of course he needed to be followed, and at the departure of one of them he also was put in a hospital. He lost most of enthusiasm for life in that place, because of the lack of humanity and the abrupt change of environment: from a colored, curious, strange one to a sad and distant place without love and excitment.

The first appearance of Freaks at the beginning of 1930s wasn't saluted with great happiness. The New York Times wrote: "A Picture not to be Easily Forgotten" while Harrison's Report more hardly commented: "The movie is not fit to be shown anywhere."
The beginning of 1960s more lucky for this movie. MGM tried its best for passing this production reaching also the Venice Film Festival.
At the same time, time passed by but Griffith will re-meet along his way

You will see later that legislation changed a lot in many States regarding the shows that loved to use abnormal people with the consequences that followed.

What upset me a lot was that when this man died he was buried without any marked grave and considering all, maybe the treatment could have been different. But...There is a happy end! also in this sense and thanks to some of his friends. You can visit now  Schlitzie The Pinhead's grave with all the dignity that this man deserves.

This book is about acceptance, about the "differents", abnornalities and inclusion when there was exclusion: we musn't forget that the family sold this kid  as if he would have been a dog.

It speaks about what it means a reason for going on in life as well.

Schlitzie discovered that the world adopted him was beautiful and he loved to performing, although who knows if he knew what it meant.
He loved it, that one was his reason for living; what it gave him serenity, joy, happiness. That was why when he was put in that hospital lost a lot of joy and happiness. He wasn't anymore surrounded by the people he loved and the people who, for a reason or another, loved him and were affectionated to him. His world was the world of circus, exhibitions. He was happy close to that environment, his other weird and colored friends, and the people he could call family. As magistrally written in the book: "- These people - did not ask to be brought into the world but into the world they came."

A stunning graphic novel. I read it in a few hours. It is vivid, lucid, well constructed and thought, and it is a real historical gem, giving back a great portrait of the old America and Hollywood and the role experienced by Schlitzie and other so-called abnormal people in the American showbusiness's tissue.

I thank ABRAMS&Chronicles for the physical copy of this book.

Anna Maria Polidori

domenica, maggio 19, 2019

On Bicycles A 200 Year History of Cycling in New York City by Evan Friss

On Bicycles A 200 Year History of Cycling in New York City by Evan Friss,
is a book published by Columbia University Press. I was curious about this book because my idea, seen in too many movies and TV series of New York City, the city that never sleeps would sing Liza Minnelli or the Big Apple has always been the one of a city absolutely plenty of cars, yellow cabs, a lot of confusion and I don't think I have ever seen a bicycle in a movie, or I didn't notice it.
In this funny, absolutely absorbing and beautifully written book, I discovered not only that bicycles and bicyclers tried to exist in NYC from 200 years, but that bycicles' s lovers fought a lot for obtaining rights.
Yes, because the advent of bicycles as you will read hasn't been simple and at first it was a passionate, abrupt, but at the same time volatile love. In a summer the one of 1868's New Yorkers discovered velocipedes for men and women with all the differences of the case; there was the birth of a magazine telling everything about this world, the birth of associations... Then the passion and love, went away for various decades as it was born.
You will read about important promoters of bicycles like mr. Arthur Hyde. He went, since very little, in all the possible corners of the city, and also the countrysides with his bike. Substantially he spent in the bicycle crucial moments of his existence.
Hyde was one of the main promoters of love for bicycles; he became member of the most influential association about New Yorkers' s bicycles's lovers writing down a lot of pieces, keeping journals of his trips far or close from home and saying what he thought about the matter with strenght.

Who, differently, as you will read in another chapter, was a lover of bicycles but did all his best for changing the face of NYC adapting it more to cars than not to a vehicle with just two wheels, was Moses. The Last chapter will involve Mayor Bloomberg and the re-launch of spaces dedicated to bicycles's lovers.

I found this book not just interesting - I love NYC so when I can read news or curious facts of the city I am always happy - but funny, interesting, stimulating. It was written with joy, it's informative but at the same time engaging, fresh, highly communicative, with the desire of telling an unknown aspect of NYC's story with passion: what this book gives back is a wonderful portrait of a past, populated by the idea of a healthier way of travelling up and down in the city in complete freedom (absolutely wonderful and humurous the numerous trials and temptative by members of various associations of stopping bicycles in the city and in Central Park) seeing through the decades and centuries, the mutations of the city, thanks also to the constructions of a lot of other structures, like Bridge Verrazano, and what it means today for a person to use a bicycle in a city crowded like New York City is.

This book will also let us see the various mutations of bicycles during the centuries and decades, and what the business of bicycles meant and means for New York.

Highly recommended!

I thank Columbia University Press for the physical copy of this book.

Anna Maria Polidori

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

It made me think a lot The Reader by Bernhard Schlink.

I found this book at the second hand store of the ladies of Books for Dogs.
This book is technically perfect, and while I was reading it, I thought that it was a long time that I didn't read a book clear like this one, and I also thought I would want to have the clarity of passages of this author.

Feelings, moments, are analyzed with an extreme, accurate precision, and times are so perfects that if I wouldn't know that this one is a work of fiction, I would think that the author has experienced a story like this one, for realism, for capability of entering in the souls of  characters without banality, without lightness because, this one is an unusual love-story and it will create a powerful connection also for the rest of the protagonists's existences.

The story the one of Michael a 15 years old boy. Being sick and often at home, once, after a walk, he is brought home by a lady. His mother insists for thanking the lady and Michael will bring her a bouquet of flowers falling enchanted by her beauty body. Hanna is 35 years old.

Soon starts a torbid, tender, in part violent relationship. The woman called Hanna will call him "Kid." Michael is completely absorbed by her, but what happens starts to be a secret. It is so unusual in a relationship like this one and a love that it is impossible to sharing openly, because it wouldn't be understood, misunderstood.
These kind of relationships bring silences and secrets; a condition that Michael would have experienced for a long time.

Realistically Michael hasn't been in grade later to build any kind of solid relationship with other women because of the intensity felt emotionally for this woman when a teen-ager.

He was still, as called Hanna him, a "Kid" in a dangerous age, when hormons are not just brilliants but they have absolutely the necessity of exploding, so people meet along the way are fundamental for growing up harmonically sexually and emotionally as well.

Hanna will become Michael's secret, but what they lived, strangely hasn't been lived by Michael as a deviant relationship but as the best relationship of his existence.
He adored this lady.

Then, one day, after months of passion and desire, Hanna just disappeared leaving Michael alone with his desire, with his confusion, with his delusion.
He will grow up more cynically because he felt the sensation that he was thrown away. He didn't receive any communication from her. It was difficult to him to being the old Michael knew by his friends. ichael had lost his treasure.

Divided in three part, the second one is absorbed by the trial where the Hanna is involved in. A trial about some people in the SS and again Holocaust, and again perpretation of injustices.

Michael is becoming a lawyer and teachers ask to students of followinf this case. He doesn't know who the people involved in this case are, but then he recognizes Hanna, he understands...He understands why she didn't act clearly. He also understands during the trial that she is illitterate. She doesn't know how to read and write but she feels shame and she wouldn't confess this.

The book is called The Reader, because per years Michael will send her tapes in prison of his most beloved books, reading and recording them for her. An activity he did also when they started their relationship.

Michael, following the trial, understands that he was in love with a criminal and he starts to feel also a sensation of guilt. He made love with a criminal. He went to the house of a criminal and he didn't know that. I entered in Michael's mind thinking at the devastation that the protagonist must have felt at first. He didn't know and Holocaust is a shame that won't never heal in Germany.

I thought at Hanna as well.

Maybe she found in Michael someone cleaned, a new life at the beginning of his sexual existence. Maybe she lived secluded and she needed a change and this change was represented by a teen-ager.
I guess that, as also portrayed by the author, she knew this relationship was impossible, but at the same time the control she had on him and his soul was enormous.
Michael was substantially completely "under her wings" experiencing a role of  subjection and devotion although sometimes he felt irritation because not satisfied by her answers, because there was something unclear.

Hanna was conflictual. She couldn't tell, she couldn't explain her past to Michael, buried by her same old and horrible secrets and it created a wall that could not be intellectually climbed.
When Michael asked her something, she was cryptic.

At the end of the book you'll find some questions for discussing this book in a book club and one question asks if, for case to you Hanna wouldn't never have done what she did, if she had read and if she had known. In a few words, if she had culture.

To me she would have done the same things, because what created by Hitler was a horrible system and that system had to work, and culture couldn't change this state of things. I will add more: I guess that knowledge put in hands of someone with a devilsh character could become an additional instrument for creating more messes and more dangerous situations.

Most of the people who perpetrated horrors read books and had culture, but culture didn't help them to understand the atrocities of what they were doing, no; simply there has been a big manipulation on people's minds, insisting in crucial points, creating discrimination, creating hate, and justifying the horror.
People of a country are like sheep in most cases and they follow what politicians tell them, as good children would do with their parents. That's why that horrors have been possible, and that's why it is indispensible to continue to speak of this thematic. That's why these books exist.

There was a man who lived in a city close to me. He put bodies of people in the crematory ovens in Auschwitz. For what they told me, I haven't never met him in person for an interview, and it's my only regret, now he is dead, they said he cried for the rest of his life, because these atrocities can't never be removed by the mind, they remain, because there was too much innaturality, there was too much horror, there was too much death and, again, injustice. He continued to repeat for all his life that he had to do that job. In opposite case they would have killed him.

Hanna understood the atrocities of what she did. She started to read books written by people she damaged, like Primo Levi and many other ones, and tired of freedom and prison, tired of a dictatorship that ruined her, understanding the nonsense of war, decided what it was better to do for closing her existence.
She was another soul in a cage built by a system created by a dictator; she joined that system, but conclusions are that what happened wouldn't never set her free completely; she knew that she could have been captured; she knew she was in a cage.
She knew that past couldn't be erased.

This book made me think also because of choices made in life and what happen of existences if these choices are disgraceful: you musn't be an SS, you musn't join a dictator's idea, for ruining your own existence.
Chosing wrong people, wrong friends, wrong connections, can mean a devastation for the existence of people.

I personally find psychologically interesting the character of Michael because 'till the end close to this lady, connected with her in a wire, strong and solid, unable to being cut by him. Not only: as in a regression he reads for her books; books that he had previously read to her, who knows if for searching again that old moments spent together, for establishing a contact, for remarking the importance she had on him. I found this part of the book touching.
Michael was a devoted man under many aspects.

If that day Michael wouldn't have brought her that flowers, his existence would have been completely different. Each action is a reaction, as physics tell us and also a little, innocent, apparently insignificant gesture can means an important deviation from the harmonic existence of an individual, or, romantically, defining his destiny.
Pretty scaring.

Highly, highly recommended.

Anna Maria Polidori

martedì, maggio 14, 2019

No Return Address A Memoir of Displacement by Anca Vlasopolos

No Return Address A
Memoir of Displacement by Anca Vlasopolos is intense, captivating, intellectually honest, sincere. A life-story told with great human touch, plenty of anedocts, facts, daily life events of a family from Romania.
The story the one of the mother of the writer. Her years spent in Romania, with the terror of Nazis and what would have happened. She didn't know, she was little, that they were in danger, that it was dangerous to speak too openly. The mother of the protagonist of this book was in fact Jewish, while her husband catholic. The protagonist of this book grew up with the sensation of being in part catholic, in part Jewish. The husband tells the future religion of the children and so her dad accompanied her at church, celebrated Easter. Holidays, this ones, not appreciated by her mother although she wasn't a lady in love for religion.
But what scared to death the protagonist was to learn from a friend of her that because she was jewish, because of her mother, catholic hated them. She asked why, and his contemporary said her that he didn't know the reason, but it was like that.
She felt a sensation of profound loneliness preferring to staying in contact with all the minorities in Romania that were discriminated like Armenians.
Considering that the mother of the protagonist spent some time to Auschwitz, many are the sad memories she will report. There are terrible episodes.
"My mother often said that the weather was so harsh in Auschwitz that some prisoners maintained the Nazis controlled it" it's a phrase I would  want to remark. After the terrible experience of Auschwitz, the decision of leaving. A trip to Europe, Paris, for finding later in the New World, precisely Detroit, their new homeland. Without to feeling at home anywhere. It happens this, when maybe people are not accepted, or unwanted. It's s sentiment so brutal and horrible that, wherever they will go they won't find a home, but only a sense of hospitality.
But, although a lot of places changed, what kept the daughter of the protagonist of this book alive was being in grade of establishing, as also suggested her mother to her a web of friendships. It's remarked that "My childhood was populated by women who lived with daily choices between integrity and survival..."

In alast trip to Paris, the tale of the Americanization and globalization of the city, or maybe just as confess her: "...I have discovered myself at home at last in the world, and find the feeling uncanny?"

This book speaks of the meaning of life, home, homeland, religion, food, countries, multiculturalism, memories through objects, stories, food, recipes, storytelling, stones.

I highly suggest it to you.

I thank Columbia University Press for the physical copy of this book.

Anna Maria Polidori

Le Dernier Jour D'Un Comndamné by Victor Hugo

Why a dead man walking should write down all hishfeelings the days before to being killed? And why not to do that, considering that there won't be a tomorrow, but since there is life, facts can be clearly told, reported as an act of legacy, for the posterity? They will remain for the posterity, written by someone who won't be in grade of course, of telling the final moments of this, let's baptize this a "journal of legacy about death penalty."
Victor Hugo in Le Dernier Jour D'Un Comndamné returns to speak of a thematic treated also in Les Miserables: in that case a man who had stolen some bread obtained as a punished 19 years of jail!
In this one Hugo tries to imagine what happens in the mind of someone who knows that will lose his/her life because of justice and a verdict.

The condamend one will write:
Qu’est-ce que la douleur physique près de la douleur morale !

"What is the physical pain if compared with the psychological one!"

About dying:

..."Le soleil, le printemps, les champs pleins de fleurs,
les oiseaux qui s’éveillent le matin, les nuages, les arbres, la na-
ture, la liberté, la vie, tout cela n’est plus à moi" , "The sun, fields of flowers..., clouds, trees, nature, freedom, my life, nothing will be mine anymore."

The guillotine was horrible. Just the idea of remaining headless was scaring, like it was scaring to lose the existence. What, sometimes, it is not important for a common and free man, like the rays of sun, the outside world, become for the condamned, with the idea of losing this world in a certain day, reason for thinking, observing, appreciating, desidering that the path would be different, that death wouldn't touch him.
Fainted and brought to the infirmary of the hospital he will think: "Mourir si jeune et d’une telle mort ! " "Dying so youg and of such a death!"
Shades of a life, a sing sang by a child; flowers, remembered when there was still freedom; rays of sun, a symbol of existence.
Before to discover his end the condamned man wrote:

"Inondé d’air et de soleil, il me fut
impossible de penser à autre chose qu’à la liberté..."

"Inundated by air and sun, it was impossible imagining something else than freedom."

The irony of all this story is that he is treated with great respect and formalism. "Monsieur" "Gentleman" tells him the various guards and people of the prison where he is spending his final hours of life.

At the end he will write

"Je suis calme maintenant. Tout est fini, bien fini."

"I am calm, after all. It's finished, and it is a good end."
He also adds that he doesn't hope anymore.

The day of the execution of a condemnded one, a so-called dead man walking, is a ritual as you will read made in particular by gestures, a formal protocol but also by certain people, like the priest, a key character, for searching for redemption in the condemned one... I loved the dialogue with the police-man the gendarme and what it happens between them.

"---d’oublier le présent dans le passé". What a dead man walking can does is trying to forget the present, for remembering the past.
More let's say, reassuring. Past: it's sweet remembering what it was, and what it meant to spend his life, now that there is the black hole of death waiting for him.

The man starts to be confused because the hour is close. When they brought the condemned one to the place of the execution, not the funniest one of the world, he gives another last look at Notre Dame and what that church, the church of all parisiennes meant to him, like also other spots of the city, that, soon will become just "memories of a lifeless man."

The final chapters will be moving.

This book is an analysis of what it meant France in that historical moment, of the parossism of the abuse of death penalty, as coercitive, scaring method for discouraging acts of rebellions of every sorta. Most people lost their existence just for a sunspect. Both the king and Queen, Louis XVI and Marie Anoinette died in this way, but we musn't never forget that Robesperierre, the man who established that period of Terror and horror in France would have done the same end.  
Is there sense to death penalty? Another question that Victor Hugo remarks opening a dialogue still not yet sorted out.

I love Victor Hugo because he speaks gently to everyone, opening doors of compassion, of knowledge, filtered by sentiments of benevolence, goodness, with admirable characters in grade to make the difference, reaching the heart of people: Victor Hugo is not just remarkable but absolutely touching. I am also reading Les Miserables (in italian this time) and what I admire the most of him is the possibility of seeing all the time in every person goodness and possibility of redemption, and the ability of putting in the mouth of people gem of wisdom of admirable profoundity; characteristics that maybe, if seen and lived by people could open doors of understanding unknown to the most, but surely cultivated, appreciated and admired by this big,battentive, visionary author.

I suggest this book to everyone.

I downloaded this ebook here

Anna Maria Polidori 

domenica, maggio 12, 2019

Sickle by Ruth Lillegraven translated by May-Brit Akerholt

I received three days ago Sickle by Ruth Lillegraven translated
by May-Brit Akerholt published by Seagull Books. It is simply enchanting. Wonderful!
It is, this one, the story in poetry, of a Norvewgian family's farmers in the 1880s and of their children, in particular Endre; the only one who would have remained in the farm, the only one who would have followed the same destiny of his ancestors, of his father.
"That's how it is
that's how it goes

This is our fate
This is our fortune

and you are
only a small leaf
on the larger tree"

The meeting with Abelone, a girl different from him and his education devoted to heavy work and farm life meant to him an abrupt passion and the desire of building an existence with her.

Marital problem will born when Endre will fall sick. The arrival of a book from one of his distant brothers emigrated in the USA means to him the discovery of a new language and particularly new worlds. History, nature, astronomy. Endre, sick, didn't want to speak anymore in his language, norwegian, but just in this new one, english. His wife won't be tolerant.
In this sense I see a metaphor, because sometimes couples are like "interrupted" and what they do is just to going on, although the man and the woman with the time became to speak unrecognizable "languages" for the other one, growing up differently, becoming someone else. It will be only when one of them will start to speak the same language of the other one that the couple will return to be united. It's a book this one about the circularity of life, the seasons of life, with new arrivals and departures, seasons and farmer's work; sacrifices, animals, a different destiny for Endre as you will read and much more.
A book speaking of broken traditions and discoveries, intellectual ones. Incredibly delicate and intense, touching, profound, this book of poems narrating the story of Abelone and Endre will enter in your heart for staying there forever.

I loved these phrases: "All is different and all is the same"

"For all that happens has happened before,
and all that happens will happen again"

I warmly suggest it to everyone.

I thank Seagull Press for the physical copy of this book.

Anna Maria Polidori

venerdì, maggio 10, 2019

Joseph Roveto from Hollywood to Umbertide

I want to set free this last important interview, to my point of view, realized three years ago, month more, month less.

A long gestation.

At first I sent the interview, and I thank the vice-editor of a very known international monthly magazine.

I waited for the publication two years; then the monthly magazine became a weekly one, and they were not interested anymore in this product.

I tried to contact other magazines but I am not known, or just, they were/are not interested in the topic.

There was a magazine...They said me of sending them the material but I read that it would have become their proprierty and I didn't want to risk.

Joseph: he called me once in Italy when I was driving home from the hospital of Umbertide. What a days, that ones! We went to the ER for a medication at a finger I had personally damaged closing the car door    and opening his thumb as if it would have been a book. And the previous day I damaged his car. Yes, it was a terrible moment. I was still in shock.
Joseph said me that he wanted to share with me the vernissage of an estimated british painter; he had an art gallery called Grefti at that time. I love art galleries. I love paintings, painters, art in general.
He asked me if I could attend the event of Umbertide. To me it meant a moment of mental relaxation considering the hell I experienced the days before. And I was happy.

When I met him, we arranged an interview.

Joseph worked with some of the most important American stars.

I read the interviews previously realized and I thought I wanted to do something completely different. An interview speaking of substance. I didn't want to know where, how and who an actress could have let him see her graces; I didn't want to see the lightest face of Hollywood.
I wanted to speak with the man, trying to give the best idea of Roveto, first of all and the world he lived in.

Oh: the interview was realized in various moments. When we completed it we also spoke of 9/11 and after few days there was the terrorist attack at the Bataclan of Paris, the beginning of a new series of incredibly sad terrorist attacks of ISIS involving, this time, Europe. I remember that the city of Umbertide, with a massive presence of foreigners, more than 2000 muslins, and other dozens of ethinic groups, organized an event for celebrating the diversity and multiculturalism, passing through food as well.

Then there was the scandal Weinstein and the #MeToo movement.

I didn't obtain answers from him. I tried in many different ways, phone, emails, texts, I asked the help of a common friend, but the thematic was delicate.

At the moment Joseph is trying to sell the beautiful house where he lives in and, for what they told me, he will return to live in Rome.

The interview is in italian.

"Un amico piombò a casa rivelandomi che a breve ci sarebbe stata una premiazione in un prestigioso hotel di Los Angeles il Century Plaza che avrebbe visto come protagonista Audrey Hepburn. Audrey vestiva Givenchy e avrebbe assegnato un riconoscimento alla maison. Non potevo perdermi quest'occasione. Durante la serata, stavano servendo la cena, ho visto questa apparizione sedersi accanto a me: magra, elegante. Fu una semplice conversazione di pochi minuti, parlammo dell'evento, sebbene mi sentissi stordito da tanta classe.
Non le posso spiegare la bellezza di quella donna.
Rimasi impressionato dal suo portamento, dal suo stile. Quella sua grazia eterea mi fece pensare che avessi di fronte una creatura ultraterrena. La rividi una seconda volta, dietro le quinte degli Oscars perché avrebbe presentato un premio."

Joseph Roveto ex costumista di Hollywood è magro, elegante, indossa una camicia a righe e un paio di pantaloni sportivi. I Lemtosh della Moscot lo riconducono alle sue origini newyorkesi, così come il sorriso di quelle parti, forte e aggressivo. Non gli sfugge niente e sebbene sembri talvolta svagato e noncurante, tiene tutto e tutti sotto stretto controllo. Ormai di casa a Umbertide, Umbria, dove ha svariati amici, vive nel centro storico con il suo compagno Paul Bannow, veterinario, e la loro cagnolina Georgia.
"In realtà avrei voluto vivere a Milano per il fashion; il mio compagno a Roma. Avevo vissuto a Roma venticinque anni fa e per me era troppo caotica: con Umbertide, abbiamo raggiunto un compromesso ragionevole."

Mentre parliamo, una giovane cameriera affabile e sorridente del Bar Centrale, dove stiamo realizzando l'intervista, si avvicina.
"Ciao Giovanna, come stai? Ti aspetto per il corso di inglese il prossimo lunedì?".
"Certo Joseph e grazie: quella applicazione per gli esercizi è davvero carina".
Joseph, mi spiega Giovanna, tiene corsi d'inglese a casa per chi vuole imparare la lingua. "Ci divertiamo come matti durante quell'ora e mezza".

Roveto non ha scelto come tanti stranieri illustri residenti nel territorio umbro di andare a vivere in una casa sperduta e remota delle campagne vicine.

No: lui ha preferito il centro e la comodità. Piazza Matteotti, dove stiamo parlando. Di fronte a quell'attico che Joseph chiama "il suo ufficio" c'è il municipio cittadino, anche se, ora, ha intenzione di ridimensionarsi, vendendolo.
Roveto racconta che la sua famiglia è per tre quarti sicula e per un terzo napoletana.  

"Mio padre Rosario e mia mamma Jolanda sono nati negli Stati Uniti. I nonni erano emigranti. La mia è la terza generazione. Ci era proibito parlare italiano per evitare discriminazioni. I miei, però, certe volte discutevano in dialetto. Era divertente starli a sentire.
Ci bastavamo perché eravamo numerosi. Ho due sorelle, quarantotto cugini italo-americani. Vivevo a Brooklyn ma sono cresciuto nel Queens. L'identità culturale che preservavamo passava attraverso il cibo, i film italiani, gli abiti, la religione, la messa la domenica. La mamma era una cantante ma fece la donna di casa per crescere noi figli abbandonando le sue ambizioni artistiche".

Come è nata la passione per il cinema?

"New York è una città dove a ogni angolo trovavo minimo quattro cinema dove andare a vedere qualcosa. Ogni giorno vedevo films. Esercitavano un'azione catartica sulla mia anima. A quel tempo per me quello era un mondo magico".

Suo padre era un macellaio.

"Negli anni '50 la maggior parte se non la totalità dei macellai di New York erano italiani. Mio padre aveva diversi negozi di macelleria, tutti meravigliosi e con un'ottima carne. Era un bell'uomo, prestante, attraente. Ci teneva al suo aspetto esteriore. Anche per me con il tempo è stato fondamentale vestirmi bene e andare a scuola in ordine. L'aspetto esteriore gioca un ruolo importante. Papà non era una persona perfetta e ci aveva rattristato.  A un certo punto mia mamma decise di accompagnarmi quando, a 17 anni, decisi di trasferirmi in California per inseguire il mio sogno di celluloide. I primi tempi non sono stati semplici ma ho amato subito la California. Spaziosa, ariosa, solare, se paragonata alla claustrofobica New York che mi lasciavo alle spalle. Tutti sembravano giovani e poi quelle auto immense, il traffico, i colori. Un altro mondo".

Joseph frequenta l'UCLA. A 21 anni non sa ancora che piega prenderà la sua vita. Decide così di volare in Europa per un viaggio indimenticabile accompagnato solo da un diario.

"Per noi Americani l'Europa è piccola se paragonata agli Stati Uniti. Durante quei tre mesi in cui volevo capire chi fossi e dove volessi andare sono stato in Regno Unito, Francia, Germania, Danimarca, Grecia, Svizzera, Spagna, Olanda, Italia. Proprio in Italia ho intuito che la direzione che volevo prendere era quella del fashion. Rimasi incantato dalla moda italiana".

Il suo primo lavoro di rilievo in Mork & Mindy con un giovanissimo, geniale Robin Williams. Un ruolo uncredited, cioè non menzionato sui titoli di coda o su IMDB ma che ha fatto la differenza.

"Ero all'inizio della mia carriera. Un dresser, in gergo. Mi occupavo  di Robin".

Allora parliamone.

"Williams era sempre allegro, un vulcano d'idee e di entusiasmo. Aveva una vena di follia tutta sua. Recitava di continuo  anche quando ci diceva che doveva andare al bagno. Divertimento allo stato puro. Professionale, intelligente, in gamba, rispettoso e una persona precisa e seria. Ridevamo sempre grazie a lui."

Dopo Mork & Mindy il suo primo lavoro importante fu al Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.

"C'era tanto lavoro da sbrigare ma grande creatività al tempo stesso da donare. Un continuo cambio di costumi. Lavoravo con Bob Mackie, un grande costumista. È stato meraviglioso lavorare con lui. Cher era provocante, bellissima, sexy. Per me un grande lancio nell'industria cinematografica. Ho imparato molto in quel poco tempo."

Joseph spiega che lui era un freelance.

"Non c'è certezza che lavorerai e soprattutto non sai quando e con chi. Il mondo di Hollywood è competitivo e politico sotto certi aspetti e non sono mai stato un tipo particolarmente estasiato dall'ambiente. Hollywood a un certo punto non mi impressionava più. Non avevo forse il giusto ego. L'avessi avuto, chissà, forse sarei diventato ancora  più noto e famoso."

Chi sceglie un costumista a Hollwyood?

"Ho lavorato due anni con Steven Spielberg e ogni settimana avevamo una riunione di tutti i vari dipartimenti della serie televisiva Amazing Stories. Make-up, effetti speciali, suoni, costumi e mi creda se le dico che per Amazing Stories c'erano decine di costumi. Bene: ho partecipato a tutte quelle riunioni ma Spielberg non mi ha mai chiesto niente dei costumi. Si fidava ciecamente. In linea di massima è la produzione nella figura del manager di produzione a assumere un costumista. Le ho detto che hanno intenzione di tornare a fare un remake di Amazing Stories?"

Roveto ha lavorato in produzioni positive, perfino in una bella storia a lieto fine, Angels in the Outfield.

Crede negli angeli?

"No, amo il fantasy ma non credo negli angeli. Però, credo nei fantasmi. Quando abbiamo filmato a Alcatraz in Murder in the First con Kevin Bacon, lì puoi vedere i fantasmi. Li puoi sentire. Il luogo è gelido e il dolore, la freddezza, la morte palpabili. Ogni giorno venivamo accompagnati con una barca sull'isola. Filmavamo nella galera. Era tutto dannatamente freddo: dall'acqua, all'aria, perfino la nebbia sepolcrale che avvolgeva l'isola era fredda come la morte. La storia deprimente, il film low budget. Niente di bello".

Quanto conta l'intelligenza per arrivare?

Crede conti solo quella? No: la fiducia è la prima cosa. Poi l'intelligenza, in terzo luogo l'ambizione e infine la tenacia. Non mollare mai."

Era un'icona per noi ex-ventenni tutte innamorate di Kevin Costner e del suo JFK, ma Roveto ne ha avuto una pessima impressione.

"Se lei mi avesse chiesto con chi mi fossi trovato in difficoltà sul set non avrei avuto dubbi: lui. Uomo bellissimo e prestante ma difficile da accontentare, come anche un'altra attrice, Raquel Welch."

Diversa invece l'opinione di Roveto su Hector Helizondo, diventato famoso in Pretty Woman nel ruolo del gestore dell'albergo di lusso dove alloggiavano Vivian, Julia Roberts e Edward, Richard Gere.

"Un vero gentiluomo".

Mi parli di Michael Jackon.

"Lavorai con lui quando era con i Jackson 5. Già da allora voleva che tutto fosse più bello e grande e colorato."

Tom Cruise in All Right Moves.

"Cruise è un tipo esigente,  preciso, pignolo, scrupoloso. Voleva che facessi bene il mio lavoro. Sapeva quello che voleva. Era concentrato e determinato".

Riesce a essere idealista, Joseph?

"Non è semplice esserlo però sono una persona curiosa. Adoro mangiare e così cucino biscotti. Amo incontrare persone nuove. Questo mi permette di andare avanti, di restare giovane. Mangio il giusto e faccio tanto jogging."

C'è stato un prima e un dopo nel cinema americano, e questo si chiama 11 settembre 2001. Dove si trovava quella mattina?

"Stavo guidando con la mia auto e ero appena arrivato all'aereoporto di Los Angeles per prendere il volo per Sacramento. Andavo a trovare mia madre. Ci comunicarono che tutti i voli erano stati sospesi. Fu un lungo viaggio in auto e uno shock".

Dopo il cinema la sua vita è cambiata e ha deciso di venire a vivere in Italia.

"Mesi fa abbiamo accettato di raccontare a una troupe televisiva di House Hunters International cosa voglia dire trasferirsi in un luogo diverso dal proprio Paese. La pressione di quei giorni è stata tanta. Mi sono ripreso solo adesso."

Come: lei abituato ai ciak e alla recitazione ha subìto uno stress?

"La TV non vuole dire sempre rilassatezza. Ho trovato l'intero processo stancante. Cominciavamo a filmare alle 7 di mattina e terminavamo alle 19. La trasmissione ricostruiva i passaggi che hanno preceduto l'acquisto della casa, quindi le varie case che avevamo deciso di vedere. Non avevamo una sceneggiatura su cui basarci. Non solo: ho dovuto togliere foto, quadri e stampe per evitare possibili contenziosi anche abbastanza cospicui in denaro da parte di enti e/o persone che potessero richiedere risarcimenti".

Un esempio?
"Una stampa di un altro personaggio pubblico. Non ho potuto nemmeno tenere una foto mia e di mia sorella perché mia sorella non era in città per firmare la liberatoria".

Il filmato è stato presentato agli abitanti di Umbertide a Civitella Ranieri, curato dalla Civitella Ranieri Foundation con sede a New York, struttura che ospita scrittori di primo livello. Tra gli altri, Matthew Thomas autore di Non siamo piu noi stessi edito da Neri Pozza, Sebastian Faulks, Dermot Bolger, Azar Nafisi; l'anno passato la figlia di Mark Strand, Jessica Strand e poi Ann Goldstein traduttrice americana di Elena Ferrante e dell'Amica Geniale nonché ex editor del New Yorker.
Questa realtà letteraria è supportata dallo stesso Roveto il quale dopo aver lasciato senza troppi complimenti Hollywood è diventato consulente di immagine.

Anna Maria Polidori