Saturday, July 08, 2017

Dear Leo: Happy Birthday!

Dear Leo,

Five years ago, I looked like the person in the photo -- I was that person.

Atlanta was gripped in a heat wave -- I learned at Fernbank the other day that we set a record of 106 degrees shortly before you were born! -- and I was gripped in a revolution. In the final days of my pregnancy, I had moments in which I almost felt as though I were going insane, unable to sleep and still unable to peer into the little face I so longed to see.

It wasn't all bad, though. Indeed "adventures in mind-expansion" is what I called the final month. As I wrote in the journal that would soon become my constant companion, "My mental acuity is sharpened if only in the sense that I seem more able or maybe just more willing to study all angles of a situation. At the same time, I appear keener to let minor annoyances or concerns go."

Monday, June 26, 2017

Dove sono finite le scrittrici italiane?

Colleghi italiani!

Ho scritto un brano per un sito Web, Literary Hub, il quale parla di libri e il mondo delle lettere. Per precisare, intendo: il mio brano è dedicato al mondo di lettere italiane!

E quel brano pone una domanda importante: dove sono finite le scrittrici italiane più importanti?

(In inglese: "Where are the great Italian women writers? Jeanne Bonner visits the Salone del Libro to look beyond Ferrante." Quell'ultima parte -- 'oltre Ferrante' -- è importante)

Cioè, esistono le scrittrici brave ma come mai non hanno piu' successo in Italia?

Come mai la maggior parte degli autori su quasi qualsiasi elenco dei libri piu' importanti dell'anno sono uomini?

Con questa domanda in mente, sono partita per il Salone del Libro a Torino il mese scorso -- alla ricerca, appunto, delle scrittrici italiane.

L'articolo l'ho scritto in inglese, ma qui voglio fare un piccolo riassunto.

Nel brano cito alcuni esperti, comprese Loredana Lipperini e Tiziana De Rogatis, le quali hanno partecipato ad un incontro durante il Salone dedicato ai libri di Elena Ferrante.

E durante la discussione, è saltato fuori qualche commento che mi ha colpito molto.

Tipo: In Italia "pesa lo sguardo dei maschi nei confronti delle scrittrici."

La Lipperini ha aggiunto che Elsa Morante, riconosciuta ora come una delle scrittrici piu' importanti del secolo scorso e della letteratura italiana, "venne accusata di sentimentalismo" quando le sue opere furono appena uscite.

De Rogatis invece ha messo fuoco sul fatto che quando si parla di un protagonista di una prospettiva cosidetto 'universale,' in Italia più che altro, si parla di un protagonista maschio.

Puo' essere una sfumatura innocente ma quali sono le conseguenze per le lettrici? Dove lascia le lettrici (e lettori) che cercano protagoniste che rispecchiano la vita da donna?

Per precisare, De Rogatis ha fatto questo commento su "I giorni dell'abandono" di Ferrante, ad esempio, "Ho provato delle emozioni enormi."

E certo!
 La Lipperini ha detto che all'estero "è consueto parlare del genere," ma della possibilita' di parlarne in Italia? Nulla da fare. O perlomeno, c'è ne meno entusiasmo -- e meno collaborazione.

Dopo la discussione, ho intervistato De Rogatis, e lei mi ha detto che certo, le cose stanno cambiando un po', con lo spunto della Ferrante, ma è "un processo piu' lento in Italia."

Ha aggiunto che c'è ancora "una casta maschile" letteraria e academica che si occupa del settore dei libri (che lo gestisce).

Insomma, ha detto, c'è "ancora strada da fare."

Inoltre vorrei accennarvi un brano che ho citato diverse volte nel mio articolo per Literary Hub: "Maschilismo e letteratura, cosi ci perdiamo noi uomini?" L'ha scritto Luigi Spagnol per Il Libraio e pone una domanda importante che ben o male solamente uno scrittore maschio potrebbe porre.

E non solamente quella domanda. C'è anche questo: "Perche' ci ostiniamo a non voler leggere il mondo attraverso, anche attraverso, gli occhi di grandissime artiste che hanno l'unico difetto di appartenere a un sesso diverso dal nostro?"

Poi lui controlla i vincitori di tutti i premi più importanti letterari. Indovinate un po' che ne vince la maggior parte?!

Io ho aggiunto un'altra cosa al mio brano per Literary Hub: E' da 2003 che una scrittrice non vince il premio Strega!

Si che le cose stanno cambiando. Basta dare un'occhiata alla cinquina per il premio Campiello (comprese Alessandra Sarchi e Laura Pugno -- che bello!).

Ma come ha detto Tiziano De Rogatis al Salone del Libro, c'è ancora molto strada da fare.

Vi invito di dare un'occhiata al questo mio articolo (potete trovarlo qui) -- e fatevi sentire!


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Italian trip 2017: post #12 -- What I bought in Italy

Summary for this post? How about: What you buy in Italy when you're an Italophile, traveling mainly for the nostalgia, with the sure knowledge that the things you really want to purchase are mainly found at the supermarket, the newsstand, the bancarella of used books under the portico by the church, et al.

Or as I've said before, my favorite souvenirs are my receipts -- a trail of all the good places to eat, drink, read books and browse other wares that I found along the way. And of course, Italian receipts, like everything else in Italy, are slightly different than American receipts. (Printed on a slippery paper stock, and imprinted with the shop logo in a way that you'd like to make a t-shirt from one.)

What's in the picture? Oh the usual:

*Lots of Caffe Kimbo (which actually comes from Naples but which luckily can now be found throughout Italy (and online), yay, thank ya Jesus);
*Italian biscotti because, really, you just have to have what they have; we have not mastered the art of the Italian biscotto, when we're talking about the breakfast cookies they dip in their coffee
*Lots of copies of Bell'Italia magazine;
*Fancy schmancy chocolates from Venchy's outpost at the main Torino train station;
*A copy of Dylan Dog, the seminal Italian fantasy comic, for Il Nostro Inviato, aka Mike, who I think didn't even knew how great a gift it was;

*And, of course, a few new Moka coffee pots from the fantastic Bialetti home store in Torino because really I cannot have enough of them (I have one stashed at my mother's, one stashed at Mike's sister's house, and it's helpful to have a travel model to bring along on get the picture).

It used to be that one of the best parts of the post-trip ruminations was taking this "group picture" of acquisti (I even wrote about it for Catapult!).

Now it might just be having "someone" model items that you bought! Like a super cool Milano jacket for my super cool Leonardo (Milan is an important city for a guy named Leonardo, after all!).

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Italian trip 2017: photo-a-day #10 Parole italiane

Best of Italy: parole italiane. Italian words. Any Italian words. All Italian words.

In this case, it's a two-fer. A sign commemorating the 150th birthday of the Italian daily La Stampa in Piazza Castello in Torino.

Not my paper, but what of it? I'm a newspaper lover from way back. So I love that this sign marries two sides of my life: the news business and the Italian language business (as it were).

Il Futuro E' Quotidiano. Literally: The future is daily. Bello, proprio bello.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Italian trip 2017: photo-a-day #9 Room with view

My room with a view -- at a friend's house in Florence during my trip to Italy last month.

(Was it really last month, already?)

The view? Well, I see the hills outside of the city in the background and the gorgeous garden of the Four Seasons Hotel in the foreground.

I see orange tiled roofs and greenery. I see Mediterranean sunlight.

I see and hear Italy: the birds chirping, the clatter of utensils as someone sets the table, the distinctive whir of the carabinieri vehicles.


Saturday, June 03, 2017

Italian trip 2017: photo-a-day #8 ... Caffe + dog

They love their cafes in Turin, they love their coffee and I guess they love their dogs.

Snapped at Caffe Vittorio Veneto two weeks ago, as I embarked on one of my countless early morning marathon strolls.

The Vittorio Veneto is considered one of the city's historic coffee bars. It's also, I note for early risers like myself, one of the few in the Piazza Castello/Via Po area of Torino that opens at 6.

I drink coffee first thing, without exception! So does the signora in the picture -- who also apparently walks the dog first thing.


Friday, June 02, 2017

Italian trip 2017: photo-a-day #7 Hiking Pistoia!

I want to say the highlight of my trip to Italy last month was hiking with my friend, Giovanni! Talking about forest cleansing.

How can that greenery be real? Oh but it is. Where we went -- the mountains outside of Pistoia -- well, I would not be able to re-trace my steps easily but that's the whole point.

Let the Italians take me where they want!

Which Italians? These Italians. These super awesome Italians. Mille grazie Veronica e Giovanni!

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Italian trip 2017: photo-a-day #6 Crazy dry cleaner

Lots of stops when I return to Italy, and most are of a very personal kind of tourism. Like checking to see if "the crazy dry cleaner" is still in business.

Suffice it to say, he is (or at least his business hasn't -- yet -- been replaced by another "snack stop" for tourists).

Phew! For a moment -- I mistook the block -- I thought he'd closed.

He was our dry cleaner when we lived in Florence -- his shop is located just around the corner from our old apartment, near Piazza Santa Croce.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Italian trip 2017: photo-a-day #5 Torino courtyard

Will someone tell me if I've failed so far to make the case that Torino is astonishingly beautiful?

That hidden treasures await you?

What do they do in this courtyard? Who lives in this gorgeous building? Whose days begin looking out of that window at the grassy little field in the center of the courtyard?

To be sure, all Italian cities are riddled with tiny hidden courtyards -- but the key is "hidden." One rarely sees them. In Turin, just turn your head while heading down Via Po toward the river or Via Roma toward the station. They're there. They sometimes even house businesses like florists.

One can imagine someone wheeling into the cortile on a bike, gleefully putting an end to the commute (such as it were) by hopping off the bike and sniffing the air, with a premonition about dinner...I have a premonition that I may never return to Torino, if only because it seems almost ridiculously lucky to get two chances to explore such a wonderful city! More to come.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Italian trip 2017: photo-a-day -- #4 Fresh peas!

Just follow them. Go where they go, do what they say, ask questions but don't obstruct.

Those are my unspoken rules for being with Italian friends. It was a strategy that when I was a student in Siena reaped such travel gold that I insisted on going to live in Italy full-time. My Senesi friends took me to places that I could probably never find again -- some abandoned castle in Vescovado di Murlo, thermal baths in Southern Tuscany, a discoteque all'aperta out by a small airport in the countryside.

When I was in Italy last week, I had the chance to go hiking with my friends Giovanni and Veronica and again, they took me to a place that I could probably never find again. Two places, in fact. The second, in the low mountain range outside of Pistoia, that was so silent, so remote and hidden, that I felt as if my footsteps were trampling over the footsteps of the ancient Romans who'd sown the path. No tourist signs, no official place to park where you fed money into slot. Just the most intense greenery I've seen in a long time, and a serenity befitting the Buddhist converts who have taken refuge in this corner of Tuscany.

Oh and of course after you hike (or really do anything in Italy), you eat. In our case, a tiny restaurant in an old mill beside a stream (where else would they have put a mill?) where the waitress read out the menu, which is to say, read out the menu in her mind. We left a small window by our table open so we could hear the babbling creek below us.

We were hungry so we had pretty much everything, including these fresh peas (stunningly good) and a swiss chard involtino filled with baby veggies, plus I had the fresh pasta with a ragu of rabbit (don't tell Leo!).

Buon appetito!