Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Reading in the Shadow of Vesuvius

Some favorite books, re-read every year. Shirley Hazzard on Naples/southern Italy where she lived for many years with her genius translator husband (mostly Flaubert), the late Francis Steegmuller. [**Please see below for important note re: second & third photographs by Robert in Toronto.]

Hazzard's The Bay of Noon, Greene on Capri. (Deeply admire her other novels, but concerned with this area right now. )I cannot fathom how one could be bored by Greene in Capri--even if they don't give a fig for Graham Greene, Shirley, Francis, or Flaubert. Or Capri. However, if you don't care about any of those things--what the heck is wrong with you?! [Oh dear. I just found a NYRB letter-to-the-editor mini-kerfluffle in 2000 between Greene's last companion, a lovely person, & the reviewer of the Capri book -- 149 pages, you can zip through in a sec & highly diverting-- & then he brings in Hazzard to answer charges. These NYRB back & forth l-to-ed can go on for years. This looks like a one-off. Here's that link.]

Hazzard-recommended Falling Palace: A Romance of Naples by Dan Hofstadter. I don't know how he did it, but he did. The city's antique & curio shops are among the characters in his novelistic-remembrance. Take a break from Paris & elsewhere, please, I beg you. And don't forget about the highly original Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camillieri. I don't know how I'd do without these people. Really.

**Second & third photographs by Robert in Toronto. When I saw his flickr set & what he wrote, I thought immediately of these books. So many who have gone for the first time, just freak out & leave. [Or they pre-freak out & never go., more's the pity.] Update: Robert suggested that I should put links to each photograph so that you might see the full-size; I agree. Here is the fabulous wall; here is the antique shop.

Here's what Robert writes:
"Possibly more than any other city in Europe, Naples exudes an atmosphere and sensibility as palpable as its odour: it's not to everyone's liking. I was enthralled by the place, and, at every turn, inspired to shoot a photograph, even though the weather during our four-day stay was cold, misty, and wet. There is a lot to see, all of it accessibly on foot or by bus, and much of it unusual. In particular, the narrow, awninged streets of the old city teem with people and products to rival the medinas of Africa. But remain alert: a man with a camera is a ready mark."

buona notte, gattini & gattine

[Jean Patchett in scarf, Vogue 1950 by the great "lost" Vogue photographer Clifford Coffin via myvintagevogue on flickr. Jessica's tumblr blog is in the right side-bar & her website is looking great. Update 26 June 2009: here's link to myvintagevogue aka Jessica, who is adorable; upcoming post on her as soon as I can ask her, email, & then get back here.]