1 ECOUMBERTO ECO interview up on Publishers Weekly. I have never laughed so much during an interview. He told jokes as we waited for the elevator, he let me touch his incunabula….I think I am in love. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/profiles/article/68465-the-parasitic-press-umberto-eco.html

 

2 ParksNice quotes from my TIM PARKS interview that I was unable to fit into my piece for Publishers Weekly: “Obviously I was aware of people like [Patricia] Highsmith. I admire her a lot but I always thought that the [Ripley] books could have been much funnier. You could see that she just didn’t do humor. And Italy always seems to invite humor. Either humor or desperation because you can go crazy in this country quite easily, particularly if you have to get something done.”

“Crime and Punishment was another book that I think could have been so much funnier. You feel you are morally superior to these people so why not.”

 

3THE POWER OF BOOKS: I was chatting with Antonio Cesari from Brigaldara (www.brigaldara.it) about fictional characters who inspire people to put them into a real context. Romeo and Juliet, Sherlock Holmes and…Mary Poppins. Antonio told me that when his brother went to London for the first time he walked around every single park in the city looking for Cherry Tree Lane, the location of the Banks’ residence.

A few days later, I happened to pick up The Collected Essays of Graham Greene. Here is a quote: “Perhaps it is only in childhood that books have any deep influence on our lives. In later life we admire, we are entertained, we may modify some views we already hold, but we are more likely to find in books merely a confirmation of what is in our minds already: as in a love affair it is our own features that we see reflected flatteringly back. But in childhood all books are books of divination, telling us about the future, and like the fortune-teller who sees a long journey in the cards or death by water they influence the future. I suppose that is why books excited us so much.”

 

4I have been asked to review books for Publishers Weekly. The editor asked me give him an idea about what I liked to read. This is what I wrote:

 

I read mysteries for publishers when I was in New York…and for Book of the Month club I read things that didn’t fit into easy categories (a book on Masai warriors) and artist’s biographies (I had studied art history at university) and, of course, mysteries.

 

However, a wander through the books on my shelves reveals that my favorite novelists are Nabokov (the first chapter of Lolita is pure poetry), John Updike, William Boyd (except for his James Bond pastiche), Louis de Bernieres (although sometimes the narrative in his books becomes untethered and floats away), Peter DeVries (he makes me laugh out loud). Of course most of these authors are dead. But they have styles I enjoy reading….they play with words and still deliver emotional punch. I will also confess to reading Allison Lurie and Anne Tyler, although they are not displayed on my shelves. They are secret “girly” reading.

I like showbiz biographies, I studied enology, viticulture and wine tasting and have written about wine for closing in on 30 years….so I can assess wine books.

 

I don’t like those big fat Japanese books – nor do I like those slim, slight Japanese books, where everyone is just soooo sensitive. I don’t like books that pump up their page count by hammering in slabs of Googled “history” and “science”. I am beginning to find the Mystery writers who pump out one big fat book after another, tiresome. I am sure they are nice people but I want to shake them and say firmly: Stop repeating the same story, do something else!

On my bedside table at the moment: Michael Caine’s Autobiography The Elephant to Hollywood, Le Carre’s The Tailor of Panama, Elmore Leonard’s Djibouti and The Name of the Rose. I will read anything if it is nicely written.

MARCH 2014

March 29 Happy Birthday Francesco and Giovanni

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWe head to the Osteria Carroarmato to celebrate the 18th birthday of Ugo and Steffie’s twins.  Twenty some friends and relatives at a long wooden table. Plate after plate of sliced meats, vegetables, polenta, gorgonzola, lots of happy chatter. It felt wonderful to live in Italy at that moment.

March 26- 30 Tasting at the Vinitaly wine Competition.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI decide to share this honor with Matteo, one of my tasting students.  He will take two days and I will do the rest.  The idea of 4 full days of tasting from 9 to 5 just does not appeal to me at the moment.  Thank goodness they use electronic tablets and spare us judges the fatigue of adding up columns of figures and filling out forms.

We average around 44 wines a day, with 3 to 4 minutes for each wine. 

What I do when I am not tasting.
What I do when I am not tasting.

Here is the tip I gave Matteo:  Place the glass that you want to be filled on the right hand side of your table and put your hand lightly on the base of the glass.  That way the sommelier can fill it without having to lean over the table and sort through the confusion of your 12 glasses. The sommelier will appreciate this courtesy. 

I met a fan!  Another judge had read and appreciated one of my books and told me so.  It never fails to please me when someone says he likes what I have written. I invited him along to my pal Annalisa’s osteria, the Carroarmato, for a book presentation and we stayed for dinner. 

I have taken a look at his website and now I am his fan! Here is the address of his blog:  www.AlfonsoCevola.com. Wonderful photographs and gentle, interesting commentary. A lovely and amusing man. 

March 21 Interviewing Andrea Camilleri

3Camilleri, for those who may not know, is Italy’s best loved author and the creator of the wry and observant Sicilian commissario, Salvo Montalbano.  I interviewed him for Publishers Weekly at his apartment in Rome.

Here are two rather nice quotes from Camilleri that I won’t put in my article:

“When I don’t have any ideas I might write a letter, for example, to a man I’ve just encountered at a kiosk. It’s a letter I know I’ll never send, but it serves as an exercise. Without that, you get stuck. What’s behind writing? It’s not that the artist writes when he gets inspiration — it’s the work of each day.”

5“Two great masters for me are Hammett and Chandler.  Perhaps Hammett above all because of his behavior during the Communist Witch Hunt in the 1950s. He ended up going to jail for his views.  Now, this was a man who drank nearly a bottle of whisky a day. So going to jail for him was like having a double sentence. It took a great deal of courage.”

Camilleri very kindly signed books for Stefania (who made her family take their last vacation to Sicily so that she could visit all the sites where the Montalbano TV  series is filmed) and for Susanna (whose favorite book is Il birraio di Preston.)

Susanna was very pleased when I told her that that book was very significant in the development of Montalbano.  In fact without it there might have never been a Montalbano.  You see, Camilleri was stuck when writing Il birraio di Preston so he decided to set himself a “creative exercise”: writing a mystery novel.  He wanted to see if he could write a linear plot – going from chapter one through to the end and linking each chapter logically.  So there you have it, Montalbano started out as a remedy for writer’s block.

March 20 Candy for Camilleri

4My husband went to a small hand-made chocolate shop to buy a box of candy to take to Camilleri. (I had done my homework and discovered that he had not drunk wine since 1947 – yes, 1947.) The shop assistant asked my husband if the chocolates were for a woman and he told her they were for Andrea Camilleri.

 

Shop Assistant (in awe): He’s one of those people that you think don’t really exist.

Michael: You mean like a mythological creature?

Shop Assistant: Yes, exactly!

 We take the bus to the airport to see the unveiling of the giant posters advertising Soave that the Consortium has put up.  Michael and I helped them tidy up their English slogan. Here are photos of 2 of my favorite Italian Journalists/bloggers.  Carlo G. and Maria Grazia, who looks rather fetching in her new purple glasses. Her site: www.soavemente.net   

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

March 16 Dancing to the Tune of Bardolino

The annual Bardolino thrash. Great fun, good band, nice eats, swell people.

March 11 Greek Fans – Wow!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAA couple of years ago I got an email from Anistasia K., a teacher at the Iiona School of Music in Greece.  She was bringing some students to the Veneto and wanted to meet with me.  She uses my wine articles in her English classes.  I was unable to meet them on that occasion.  BUT SHE’S BACK!  She is bringing another group and we agree to meet in Verona.  She told me one of her students is writing a thesis comparing Chateau Yquem and Amarone.  My mind boggled, particularly when I was introduced to the 14 year old who is writing the piece.  What a lively, intelligent boy.  All of the students were enthusiastic and polite.  It was a real pleasure to meet them.

March 8, 9, 10  Tergeno IGT Ravenna Bianco 2012 from Fattoria Zerbina and Lunch

Cristina Geminani of Fattoria Zerbina
Cristina Geminani of Fattoria Zerbina

I drank a glass of this blend of indigenous white varieties (and just a touch of Chardonnay) with my lunch three days running.

It has the body and delicately fruity flavor to go with: a salad of dry, shredded meat, olives and artichokes dressed with lemon and oil; rice salad with ham and peas; and breaded chicken cutlet.  A very satisfying wine.  The back label suggests that is goes well with seafood and some kinds of raw fish, liver-based dishes and cheeses, or as an aperitif.  All of this sounds right to me.