"I was twenty-nine years old when the Arno flooded its banks on Friday 4 November 1966." Thus begins the novel, "Sixteen Pleasures" by Robert Hellenga. It takes place in flood-ravaged Florence and sweeps you through frescoed chapels, museums, bookstores, and, finally, to the waterlogged library of a Carmelite convent where the heroine discovers a priceless Renaissance volume of sixteen erotic poems and drawings, and we are immersed in the painstakingly delicate work of a book conservator.
They say that there are no new subjects to write about, only different ways to tell the story. Hellangra proves this to be untrue. At least I have never read anything like this before, a story that centers around the craft of book restoration while giving us a glimpse of the Renaissance and taking us on a delightful foray into the pleasure of erotica and human sexuality (our conservator is inspired to sample each of the sixteen) with an intriguing look at monastic life, all the while holding forth the recurring theme of home. "Home is the place where when you have to go there, they have to take you in."
I adored this novel and highly recommend it. It's one of those exquisite books that will stay with you long after you've closed the cover and turned off the light, satisfied.
One final thing: Robert Frost died fifty years ago yesterday. Master of the metaphor, he was admired then and now for his depictions of rural life. He was ambiguous in his writing and didn't answer the questions for you. "A poet lays out a metaphor and let you wrestle with it." That was Robert Frost. He deserves his own post, but because of time constraints (I really am trying to ready my manuscript at long last for querying), I'll leave you with a few lines from my favorite Frost poem.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
Friday, January 25, 2013
She bent over him, and her breath was warm and sweet as summer. He bit down on the back of his hand to stifle a moan.
It was late when he left. The moon had set and the sky pulsed with stars. The Big Dipper lined the edge of the world and the world was still.
This is 55 words for the G-Man's Friday Flash 55.
Keep warm and TGIF!
Monday, January 14, 2013
In training for the veil,
she nails the claustrophobia
but mourns the loss of her peripheral
vision, the dance classes and the wind
in her hair. She sips life through a straw
like one trapped under ice and practices
the art of being servile. They say she is lucky
to be one of but three to share his house.
She should have married Jesus
while she had the chance and slept alone.
She peers through her nose hole
and imagines life in a bell jar, contained.
Image comes to us from Tess at Magpie Tales, a blog to nourish the muse, one dedicated to the enjoyment of poets and writers, but I take responsibility for the rest. Tess's poem can be found here.
Thursday, January 10, 2013
He rages against the government
and hits himself in the face
with his nervous tick.
He teaches a class for concealed weapons
and lobbies hard for open carry.
Broken capillary nose of an alcoholic
with the wide-set eyes of a madman,
he smacks himself in the face,
ogles the girls
and fears for his guns.
These days it seems the madmen are closing in. Thank goodness for an online community of writers that is healthy and diverse. Tell us a story in fifty-five words, and let the G-Man know, or just visit him for links to lots of little fifty-fivers by some very talented players.
In the meantime...
Thursday, January 3, 2013
was comin’ around,
Let's start the New Year off right. Tell us a story in exactly 55 words and then let the G-Man know. He also has your horoscope for 2013, so check it out. You can click here if you want a little history behind the Flash 55.
so we hid in the closet
and shuttered the lights.
But he rapped-a-tat-tat
with his knives all-a-silver
and peered over the sill
with a smile like a sword.
It wasn’t a dream,
wasn’t a trance.
Next morning a trail
from the club foot he favored
dirtied the snow round windows and doors.
And now for a little history behind my flash 55. As stories go around these parts, along with the Watkins Man who delivered extracts and liniments there was a knife sharpening man who came around every few weeks in an old truck with a bell. He had a wheel in the back of his truck he pedaled with his foot, much like a sewing machine, and he would sharpen knives and scissors in a flash for a pittance.
As children are wont to do, my older sisters contrived stories around the knife sharpening man, all of them sinister and disturbing to the young child’s mind. Hence the seed for my Flash 55, much embellished, of course. I’m sure that the poor man was only delivering a much appreciated service and not peering in windows.