Mental casting


As I wrote some a few days ago, life of people without imagination must be a very boring one. If, to the lack of imagination you add a total lack of interest in reading, according to my point of view an amoeba has a more amusing existance. But, as usual, I am rambling. The fact is that when I read, I tend to imagine myself very clearly the features of the character I’m reading about; because it is described with absolute precision by the writer or because I associate it with an actor or actress.

I’m reading now the first volume of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and there is a character, precisely in “The Adventure of the Crooked Man” that I’ve seen in my mind played by Richard Armitage. Ok, I know, no big deal given that since I first saw him last December (check previous post… I always arrive late) in North & South he commands now my top-ten list of obsessions, category “gorgeous human beings”; and not a big deal also given that in two previous adventures appear two characters with the surname “Armitage”. Whatever might the reason be, I could not help it. Reading about Corporal Henry Wood and seeing him with Richard Armitage face and body (plus a little bit of prosthetics… he’s used to them after all) came to me as something obvious and automatic.

This is how he starts to relate his story to Sherlock Holmes. Useless to underline that the psychological effect is complete is you succeed to hear the very voice in your head.

“It was in this way, sir. You see me now with my back like a camel and my ribs all awry, but there was a time when Corporal Henry Wood was the smartest man in the 117th Foot. We were in India then, in cantonments, at a place we’ll call Burthee. Barclay, who died the other day, was sergeant in the same company as myself, and the belle of the regiment –aye, and the finest girl that ever had the breath of life between her lips—was Nancy Devoy, the daughter of the colour-sergeant. There were two men who loved her, and one whom she loved; and you’ll smile when you look at this poor thing huddled before the fire, and hear me say that it was for my good looks that she loved me.

Well, though I had her heart, her father was set upon her marrying Barclay. I was a harum-scarum, reckless lad, and he had had an education, and was already marked for the sword belt. But the girl held true to me, and it seemed that I would have had her, when the Mutiny broke out, and all Hell was loose in the country.”

When Corporal Wood tells this story to Sherlock Holmes, thirty years have passed since him and Nancy Devoy loved each other. She thinks that he’s dead, because after Barclay’s treason, he is captured by the rebels, held as prisoner and tortured for years. He finally manages to scape, seriously maimed and crooked, wanders through India and Afghanistan and  returns to London, where Nancy sees him in the street. He wants to revenge on Barclay, but there’s no need of that, as he dies after an stroke as soon as he sees Wood.

Now, continuing to build fantasy plots and scripts in your head, what about placing this story in the fourth season of Sherlock? Of course, as Mr. Gattiss and Mr. Moffatt always do, some adaptations to our days will have to be made. Let’s say for instance that we are talking not of India but some other conflict at the other side of the world, that Nancy is not a “belle” of the regiment but, a journalist in her first job as a war correspondent and that instead of thirty, twenty years have passed since life has separated Henry from Nancy. It would be an astounding television experience: Thorin, Bilbo Baggins and Smaug together again. And Rebecca Hall playing Nancy Devoy. I would love to see her working with Richard Armitage.

 Isn’t imagination a great thing? The idea seems so attractive that I would love to write the script. If I was a writer.

Confessions of an old fashioned snob



Several years ago someone in an internet forum defined me “an old-fashioned snob”. The very moment I read that definition I pretended not to take it as an insult although I confess that it irritated me. This week, when I found in tumblr this picture of Sophia Loren and Stephen Boyd and I’ve used it as a background of my cell phone I’ve realised that indeed that person was right but, I’m sorry my dear wherever you are, if you pretended to insult me you have missed your goal. I take that definition about myself with pride.

I have a natural tendency to reveries and to have my mind wherever but in the present. Therefore, as far as my cinema, literary and music tastes are concerned, I usually go backwards. If I start following a series I do it when it’s over or at least three seasons after the first airing (there are exceptions, of course).  I “discover” actors and actresses after ten years or more of carreer. I’ve started reading Game of Thrones saga when the fifth novel was published. I’ve also read more classical literature than the actual one and I have no idea which songs are now the top of the pops (by the way, does it still exist, the top of the pops?).

So far about the “old fashioned”. Regarding my “snobbism” … I am a very passionate person, and when I like something I’m overenthusiast about it, and talk of it wherever and whenever I can. But I don’t do it to boast myself about it, to say to whoever is listening (anyway, most probably reading… but that’s another story): I’m learned, you’re ignorant. I  do it because is so appalling, so beautiful what you feel when a novel, a poem, a painting, a film, a performance touches you and makes you feel better that I want everyone I know to feel that way.



Dear Frankie – Epilogue

Dear Frankie - epilogue

Lizzie sat on the bench, looking at the bay. She went there every afternoon, after leaving her job. Watching the ships coming and going from the harbour soothed her. It was strange, not having to run away anymore, to be over with lies. She yearned for years for her liberty, and now that she finally had it, that Frankie was save, that everything was over, she didn’t know what to do with it. She felt that there was something missing, she knew what it was, who it was, but she didn’t have the courage to say it loud. As she had not the courage to ask Marie about him.. “My brother”, replied Marie when Lizzie wanted to know who the stranger was. And she didn’t ask about him anymore, not a word. She didn’t even ask his name and Marie did not utter a single word about him after that day. He kept on being “the stranger”. That was their agreement, a man with no past, no present, no future, who had only to pretend for a few hours to be the father that Davey never was. And he had been for Frankie, during that hours, more a father than the man that died in an hospital cursing her and yelling to have his son back.

She heard steps approaching and she felt her heart beat thick. She asked herself afterwards why was so sure that it was not simply someone passing by. She closed her eyes for an instant; she had not forgot that smell, that faint perfume of tobacco and leather. He sat beside her, but when she opened her eyes she had not the courage to turn and watch him.

– “Marie told me you were here.” – she closed her eyes again and when he held her hand she finally turned.

He hadn’t change a bit those months, even his clothes were the same. As if knowing what she was thinking he said:

– “I have other clothes… I was just afraid that you didn’t recognise me. I even have my hair cut yesterday, just to look as when you met me. Are you at least happy to see me? Please say something.”

Lizzie smiled and assured him that everything was alright.

– “I have something to tell you, let me tell you everything and then you decide if you want me in your life or not. If you don’t want me I’ll go but I swear you that I really care for you and Frankie, I really do.”

He sighed deeply, as if taking courage and he started to tell his story.

– “That period I was in jail, Lizzie. I was on leave, for three days, I had just a few months of my sentence left to serve and I came here to see Marie. I finished inside for a drug problem, I was a dealer. I hadn’t seen Marie for a long time and she had talked me about you, in her letters. When I called to tell her that I was to come to see her during my leave she told me your problem and she asked me if I wanted to do it; she told me also about the money you were to give me. I accepted because I really needed the money and had to start looking around to know what to do when I would leave the jail. Nobody knew me here in Glasgow, I just had to come, meet you and the boy, take my money and leave. I remember when I met you at the bar, and you gave me Frankie’s letters… you looked frightened as a mouse but there was something in you, you had courage. That morning with Frankie was one of the best ones of my life. Being with him was like peeping through a lock and have a glimpse of what my life could have been, a normal, quiet life. My plans were to spend with him just Saturday but I wanted more. And I wanted to know you better. So I went back to Marie’s that night and didn’t leave her flat, although I had to meet some people, for business. Not legal ones, of course. But I changed my mind, that night I kept thinking that maybe it was not too late for me. Sunday morning I went to the quay, Frankie should see me getting down from the ship, to make the story more reliable. I convinced one of the sailors to let me in first hour in the morning. And we spent the day the three of us together. When later that afternoon Frankie saw Marie and his boyfriend Ally at the ballroom door… When you said you and Frankie had to go away I was terrified, I wanted so badly to spend more time with you and the boy. But not so terrified as when Marie asked me in front of him since when I rolled my tobacco… Oh my God, our faces! I just could start breathing when I realized that Frankie has not understood her.”

Lizzie interrupted him for a moment.

– “You’re wrong, he did. Frankie knew you were not his father. He told you in a letter he wrote you, when his daddy died.”

He laughed for a moment, and kept on talking.

– “When you went to the bathroom I put back your money in the pocket of your jacket. I didn’t want it. Then we went strolling by the bayside, and you told me that you spent the last years running away from Frankie’s father, that his deafness was “a present from his daddy”. I became mad with rage, and anger. I promised myself that very moment that I would come back, for both of you. When I kissed you goodbye I felt myself tearing apart but the more pain I felt the more I was sure of what I had to do. So, here I am.. I’m a clean man now. I’ve come back to stay, Allie has offered me a job. Please let me be part of your life.”

Lizzie took his face in her hands, and wiped with her thumbs two small tears that were rolling down his cheeks.

– “Under one condition. Tell me your name.”

What is love? (as Howard Jones asked in a song in the ’80s)

One thing that always haunts me is when, recalling something that I am sure I have read in one of my books, I am completely unable to remember exactly where. But, sometimes, I begin to pull the thread of an idea and I find the quotation.

Yesterday, thinking about a conversation I had with a friend, I remembered a mythological story about the definition of love and the idea that somewhere there is someone that fits you perfectly. Which reminds me also something that I invented when I was a child (I’ve always thought that the life of people without imagination must be a very boring one): there was an opposite of me somewhere in the world. That is, when I was sad, she was happy, when I got good votes she had bad ones, and so on. This “another me”, being my complete opposite, had quite an unhappy childhood and started to get good votes just around sixteen. Just once I wanted to swap completely my life with hers, in my particular “annus terribilis”, 1986. But anyway, the purpose of this post is not to forget for a while this story, Aristofanes’ definition of love in Plato’s Symposium, which I had in “I Grandi Miti Greci” (The Great Greek Myths) by Luciano di Crescenzo. As you will read, Plato, thousands of years ago, had a more open minded idea of love than many people today. All blame on the clumsy translation is exclusively mine.

“In the beginning of time, humankind was formed by beings of three sexes: male, female and another bizarre kind called the androgenes, which had both sexes at the same time. All these beings were double with respect to us, that is, they had four arms, four legs, four eyes and so on; and every one of them had two genital organs, both masculine in men, feminine in women and the androgenes had one male and one female.

They walked four legged and could move in all directions, as spiders do. They had a terrible character: a superhuman strength, a superhuman superb up to the point to challenge the Gods as if they were equal. Zeus, particularly, was very upset with them, and wanted to punish them but not to kill them, as he didn’t want to lose the sacrifices, but he had to react to their misbehavior. After thinking about it for a while, one day he decided to split them in two, so as every one of them had just two legs and one genital organ; and he menaced them that should they continue on their impiety he would have split them again and make them walk with just one leg. After the “surgery”, even if Apollo healed up their wounds, men became unhappy as every one of them missed their other half, the half-men looked for the half-men, the half-women desired the half-women, and the male half of the androgines sought desperately their female half. Therefore, in order to find back their lost happiness, every one of them longed to reunite with their twin soul. And this longing is called Love.”

Pazza Idea (Crazy Idea) – edited

So I have this kind of crazy, weird idea lately. That, when you are talking to an indefinite audience of millions of people from Tasmania to Alaska there is always something that you say that refers to me. Not to me as a person, but something that refers to something that I like, enjoy, read, hear. It’s weird. Really weird. And makes me feel uncomfortable, inappropriate, unfulfilled.  Because it has happened, after reading or hearing something you have said that accidentally I have surprised myself saying, for instance, “I don’t think that poem was in that book, but it was written for that show on purpose… don’t you…?” and I stopped with my bigmouth still open because I was talking to… no one. Because we will never have that kind of conversation. Those conversations that are like pulling Ariadne’s thread of Art and Life, passing from one book to another, talking of everything, about the melancholic decadence of the country I live in, or the frustrated hopes of the one I come from. Commenting if you think you feel like playing already a character as the tired hero that has returned to Itaca, smeared with the blood of the Greek princes he has just slaughtered. I know for sure that it would be the most fulfilling intellectual experience of my life. But it’s frustrating. Because it will never happen. Then, I wonder: is there something wrong in my life? Following the logic I should say that something is missing, if you unconsciously fill that kind of void with what you said to a vast worldwide audience days ago, months ago, years ago. I’m too old for this kind of feeling.. too old.. older than you (just fifteen months, anyway).

I will give you up one of these days. This can’t be. (I don’t think I will give you up, anyway.)

Let us go then, you and I,

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient etherised upon a table;

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,

The muttering retreats

Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels

And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:

Streets that follow like a tedious argument

Of insidious intent

To lead you to an overwhelming question…

Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”

Let us go and make our visit

(T.S.Eliot – The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock)

(Note: do not write posts anymore with Tori Amos as background… increases my “spleen”)

The Hollow Men

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us – if at all – not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

T.S. Eliot – “The Hollow Men”

Let’s save a prayer

My thoughts today are dedicated to those scrumbled pieces of paper, forgotten in tuxedos and elegant evening bags somewhere in California. What will be of them? Maybe some would be recycled, used to write the list of what to buy at the grocers’. I’m not talking of the big stars, of course, but of the legion of anonymous for the public documentary producers, hairstylists, special FX artists… Maybe some of those pieces of paper would be used to write in the back their telephone numbers hoping that the brunette in the party was at least not as drunk as he was. Others would remain in the tux’s pocket that will be rented a year later and the lucky winner would keep wondering who the hell was all that people he has thanked for until he realizes, several hours later returning to his hotel room, that his speech was that piece of paper in the bedside table.  Others would be torn to pieces in anger, and very few of them thrown to the dust-bin without regrets. 

I’m sure that it’s better to forget to thank someone when receiving an Oscar that to find, when opening your rented design purse, that piece of paper mocking you.